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Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in prison for molesting two choir boys

Disgraced cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in prison at Melbourne's County Court for sexually abusing two teenage boys in 1996.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd handed down his sentence today, three months after Pell was found guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick's Cathedral after a Sunday mass.

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    Victoria County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced the most senior Catholic to be convicted of child sex abuse. Source: Associated Press

    The minimum non-parole period was set at three years, eight months.

    Pell, 77, was convicted in December of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child. Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

    During sentencing, Judge Kidd said Pell was "fully competent, lucid and intelligent" at the time of his offending.

    In this February 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne. Source: Associated Press

    "The power imbalance between adult and child is amplified in an institutional setting," Judge Kidd said.

    "The full weight of your authority and position of power must have been very obvious both to your victims and to you.

    "You were confident your victims would not complain ... your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance."

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    For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

    Judge Kidd said his sentence was mitigated by health factors - he was unlikely to re-offend, his advanced age, and heart conditions including a bad heart.

    "The fact is, you are of advanced years and are entering the last phase of your life," Judge Kidd said.

    "I'm conscious that the term of imprisonment carries with it a real ... possibility that you may not live to be released from prison."

    Judge Kidd said he had imposed a shorter minimum non-parole period than he usually would, so that Pell would have at least some chance of living out some of his final years in the community.

    Melbourne County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd during the sentencing of Cardinal George Pell.
    Melbourne County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd during the sentencing of Cardinal George Pell. Source: ABC

    Anticipating huge public interest in the sentence, the judge permitted a camera to film in court to broadcast his remarks live across the world.

    Judge Kidd said Pell's counsel had objected to the broadcast of his sentencing remarks, contending that it represented additional punishment for Pell.

    Judge Kidd rejected that, saying the public would already receive coverage of the sentence "at saturation levels" and that the broadcast was a demonstration of open justice.

    As a result of the sentence, Pell will also be registered as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.

    The courtroom was packed with abuse survivors who have their own interest in the result, beyond that of Pell's surviving victim, now aged in his 30s.

    He was orally raped by Pell in the priest's sacristy after a Sunday mass in December 1996, forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend, and then molested again by Pell a month later. The other boy died in 2014.

    Pell maintains his innocence and intends to challenge the conviction in the Court of Appeal, which will be heard in June.

    He has already served two weeks behind bars.

    Pell, who was until late-February the Vatican's treasurer, is the highest- ranking Catholic to be convicted of child sexual abuse.

    Pell's legal team has said he will appeal against his conviction on three grounds, including arguing that the jury's verdict was unreasonable, and the Court of Appeal will hear the case in June.

    - additional reporting AAP

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      The judge labelled Pell’s actions as brazen, forceful and arrogant. Source: 1 NEWS