Sentencing remarks by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd – George Pell

Below is the transcript of sentencing remarks by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd. Watch the video of the sentencing remarks on the County Court YouTube Channel.

Preliminary observations:

“Before I commence to examine the specific issues put to me on your plea, I am mindful that I am sentencing you within a unique context.

It is important that I acknowledge that context so that I can make plain to you and to the community what my sentencing of you involves and what it does not involve.

Let me first say something about this context:

  • At the time you returned to Australia to face these charges you were one of the most senior figures within the Catholic Church, globally;
  • You remain a Cardinal of the Catholic Church;
  • You are of a figure of significant interest to those of the Catholic faith, and to the public generally;
  • There has also been extraordinary and widespread publicity and public comment, which has surrounded you for a number of years;
  • Some of this publicity has involved strong, trenchant and sometimes emotional criticism of you;
  • Indeed, it is fair to say that in some sections of the community you are a publicly vilified figure;
  • Finally, I am also conscious that I am sentencing at a particular time, where in recent years there has been the exposure of child sexual abuse within institutional settings, including within the Catholic Church.
  • Having said a little about this context, it is important for me now to make some remarks concerning how this context relates to my sentencing of you today.
  • First, I am required to sentence you today in accordance with the rule of law. This is a critical feature of our criminal justice system. The rule of law demands that when I sentence you, I must do so independently of any outside influences, only upon the evidence before me, and upon established legal principles. This means sentencing without fear or favour.
  • Further, you are to be punished only for the particular wrongdoing you have been convicted of on this Indictment of sexually abusing two boys in the 1990’s, and only of that wrongdoing. 9 It is critical that you understand that this is the basis upon which I sentence you today. It is vital that the community understands this as well.
  • As I directed the jury who convicted you in this trial, you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church. Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy within the Catholic Church. You have not been charged with or convicted of any such conduct or failings.
  • This leads me to say something to other victims of clerical or institutional sexual abuse who may be present in court today or watching or listening elsewhere. This sentence is not and cannot be a vindication of your trauma. Cardinal Pell has not been convicted of any wrongs committed against you. Cardinal Pell does not fall to be punished for any such wrongs. I recognise that you seek justice, but it can only be justice if it is done in accordance with the rule of law. For me to punish Cardinal Pell for the wrongs committed against you would be contrary to the rule of law and it would not be justice at all.
  • Next, in sentencing you today, Cardinal Pell, I am not sitting in judgment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church. It is George Pell who falls to be sentenced.
  • Finally, with respect to these preliminary observations, over the last period we have witnessed, outside of this court and within our community, examples of a ‘witch-hunt’ or ‘lynch mob’ mentality in relation to Cardinal Pell. I utterly condemn such behaviour. That has nothing to do with justice or a civilized society. The Courts stand as a bulwark against such irresponsible behaviour.
  • Cardinal Pell, I want to acknowledge that in sentencing you today, I do so on the basis that you are a member of the community, like any other. Most importantly, while I must punish you for your offending, like anyone who falls to be sentenced by our courts, you are entitled to the balanced and steady hand of justice.”