George Pell Withdraws Bail Application, Will Spend Tonight Behind Bars
It will be the first time during the long legal process that has found him guilty of historic sex abuse charges that Pell has been behind bars.
Yesterday a suppression order on the press was lifted, and for the first time, it could be widely reported that Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and the third most powerful man in the Vatican, was found guilty of historic sex abuse charges last December.
Warning: this article discusses sexual and child abuse.
Pell’s charges include five counts of unlawful sexual behaviour with a minor, each one carrying a maximum of ten years of jail time, as The Guardian reports. The incident dates back 22 years and involves a coerced sexual act against two choirboys following a ceremony at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
The chief magistrate presiding over the case, Peter Kidd, will hand down a sentence at a later date.
#BREAKING: GeorgePell’s lawyer has tended 10 character references, including one from #JohnHoward, written after being made aware of his conviction. Pell is facing a plea hearing today before sentencing.
— Hugh Riminton (@hughriminton) February 27, 2019
Between now and that time, if the Cardinal had lodged a successful bail application, he could be out free, awaiting the sentencing.
But today Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, withdrew a bail application, meaning Pell will tonight spend his first night behind bars.
As the court proceedings ended this afternoon, the Cardinal was taken away by corrections officers.
Earlier today, Richter also described Pell’s crimes as being a “plain vanilla case” of child sex abuse. His argument is that although the crimes involved a violent act — the Cardinal reportedly physically coerced the victims into performing the sexual act — they were not followed up with further threats of violence.
Richter says: Pell's offending was "No more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating..no aggravating circumstances." Kidd "It must be clear to you by now I’m struggling with that submission. Looking at your points here; so what?"
— Melissa Davey (@MelissaLDavey) February 27, 2019
Former Prime Minister John Howard also submitted a character reference for Pell as part of the ongoing trial, one written after Pell’s guilty verdict was handed down.
The Cardinal and his legal team are set to contest the charges against him.
Pell’s surviving victim — the other died of a drug overdose in 2014 — has asked the media for anonymity. “At some point we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared,” the victim said in a statement.