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Talkback callers react to George Pell's light jail term

Author
Newstalk ZB, news.com.au,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 March 2019, 3:16p.m.
Cardinal George Pell has received six years in jail. (Photo / Getty)

Despite being found guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys, Cardinal George Pell was today sentenced to just six years in prison.

The light sentence has sparked division, with talkback callers firing up over the prominent Catholic's sentence. 

In his hour-long sentencing, Judge Peter Kidd revealed the three key factors he considered the 77-year-old's sentence. 

When outlining Pell's case for retribution, the judge noted while there was "no evidence of his remorse", the cardinal had "experienced an exceptional career within the Catholic Church".

Judge Kidd said Pell's age and health status had particularly affected the his decision.

"Your age is a significant factor in my sentencing exercise," he said. "As I have indicated before, you are now in your late 70s. It is relevant in a number of ways.

"Of some real importance in my sentencing exercise is the fact that each year you spend in custody will represent a substantial portion of your remaining life expectancy.

"While it is a matter of speculation as to how long you will live, the fact is that you are of advanced years and are entering the last phase of your life.

He noted Pell already had "some significant enough health issues", including hypertension and congestive heart failure.

"Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you," the judge said.

The court imposed a non-parole period of three years and eight months.

"I will impose a shorter non-parole period than I otherwise would have been inclined to impose, in recognition in particular of your age, so as to increase the prospect of your living out the last part of your life in the community," Judge Kidd said.

Another contributing factor was Pell's risk of reoffending, which the Judge deemed negligible. He said Pell's age, his "otherwise good character" and the fact he has not been convicted of such an offence in the 22 years after his crime factored into his decision.

However, he acknowledged for a second time that Pell had "shown no remorse or insight into your offending" and that there remained no explanation for it.

During his final remarks, Judge Kidd noted Pell had no prior convictions and had not committed other sexual offences since this offending.

He added that character references submitted to the court — including one written by former prime minister John Howard — described Pell as a "compassionate" and "generous" person.

Acknowledging that victims of sexual abuse often did not come forward for many years, the judge said the delay had allowed Pell to lead an "otherwise blameless life".

In the view of talkback caller Marie, the sentence is more than Cardinal Pell deserved. She told Andrew Dickens that there is no concrete evidence to back up the claims of the two boys who were abused, only one of whom is now alive. 

"I just think it's their word against his, which isn't good enough." 

She insists that people lie all the time, and does not believe Cardinal Pell has been proved guilty. 

The call sparked anger from other listeners. Claire, who is Catholic but works with sexual assault victims, and says that the children would have gone through hell. 

She says that only 20 per cent of sexual violence cases that go through court end in a guilty verdict, and a high amount of evidence is needed to prove people guilty. 

"To have someone to say we need more evidence, for it to have made it to court, they must have had heaps of evidence, because if they didn't have evidence, it just doesn't make it to court." 

Claire says that the number of false sexual assault complaints are tiny and are weeded out very quickly by police, and they never make it to court. 

"Genuine complaints don't make it to court in New Zealand!"

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