Six years in prison for Cardinal George Pell after being convicted of child sexual abuse

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in prison after being convicted of sex offences against children.Reuters

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic leader to be convicted of child sexual abuse, was today sentenced to six years in prison by Melbourne county court.

The 77-year-old, who is the former Vatican treasurer, was sentenced after being found guilty in December of one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child. 

The jury were unanimous in determining that Pell had abused two 13-year-old choir boys following Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in the 1990s.

Pell continues to deny the charges and has lodged an appeal against the conviction, which will be heard on 5 and 6 June. 

He had been facing up to 50 years in prison, a decade for each of the five counts according to Australian law. He will be eligible for parole after three years.

'Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,' Judge Peter Kidd told him.

'Your abuse involved multiple activities and actions. You moved from one victim to the other,' he added.

The judge told the courtroom that Pell had engaged in 'multiple activities and actions' and that he had 'moved from one victim to the other'. 

'The brazenness of your conduct is indicative of your sense of authority and power in relation to the victims. You may have thought you could control the situation by reason of your authority, as archbishop, whether or not that belief was well-founded,' he said. 

During the sentencing, Pell was instructed by the judge to sign the sex offenders register.  He was then led away to return to the maximum security prison in Melbourne where he is being held in solitary confinement.

A statement read outside court by the lawyer of one of the victims, now in his 30s, said: 'It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment . . . the moment when justice is done.'

The Vatican is in the process of conducting its own investigation into Pell's conduct.