Excerpts from the defense of George Pell

George Pell’s own defense lawyer begged for leniency in the treatment of his client. These are his excuses. Below the fold because they are revolting.

But did it help Pell to argue that the crime – if it happened – was a spur of the moment thing? There was no plotting, said Richter. No grooming. It was Pell, “stumbling on something without time for reflection”.

Pell was not, as he put his penis in that boy’s mouth, acting as archbishop but only as a man. Mass had finished and that was the only reason Pell was at St Patrick’s.

“The only differential of power is that he is an adult – for reasons inexplicable – with an urge to do what he did,” said Richter. “He is not abusing his position as archbishop but he is abusing his position … as a grown man.”

Richter pointed out helpfully that (if Pell had in fact done anything at all) he exerted “No force greater than was required to achieve penetration.” There were no physical injuries, no ejaculation, no recording of the offences and he did not commit them while on bail or parole.

And with this last one, he confirms that there is no Christian God.

the crime at the heart of this case was “No more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating…”

If there was, the lawyer would have been struck down by the deity with a pillar of nuclear fire, and the walls of the courthouse would have been shattered by the gloating, triumphant cackle of Satan as he personally arrived to gather Pell to his bosom.

No such event occurred, therefore we atheists are right.

Fucking hell, but that lawyer should have just kept his mouth shut. I’m ready to see Pell led out to a chopping block after that performance.


  1. says

    Sometimes I wonder if the main defense here is the brazen factor–doing something that makes all sane, normal, decent people drop their jaws somewhere into the asthenosphere as our entire brains go “That…that didn’t just happen. He didn’t just say that. Did he?” and sort of stun the jury and judge into letting the defendant off lighter.

    I see this in US politics too. It’s a kind of brother to the Big Lie Theory. It’s like some kind of epistemological nightmare and I cannot wake up. None of us can.

  2. HappyHead says

    The only reason he wasn’t doing those things while on bail or probation is because people like him were protecting him from being reported and suffering the consequences of his actions.
    Hopefully now that this has changed, he will not be eligible for probation for a very long time, and will be kept well away from kids when he does get out.

  3. Larry says

    No more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating…

    For some reason, this immediately made me remember a phrase from Poe’s The Raven: Only this, and nothing more.

  4. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    And all that was said while still proclaiming to be completely innocence of the crimes for which he was convicted.

  5. unclefrogy says

    that was maybe the silliest argument I have ever read.
    he was just a man all the while wearing the garb of an catholic priest, archbishop and a cardinal
    you have got to be nuts to say that.
    uncle frogy

  6. unclefrogy says

    what the crime was an is, is regardless of what ever title you may have in what ever origination you belong to, to the law you are just a man like any other who is guilty of a crime. you get no special treatment.
    uncle frogy

  7. DonDueed says

    You know, I’m old enough to remember when “plain vanilla” referred to M-F, P-I-V, missionary position sex between a married couple. Not. This.

  8. chrislawson says


    This is an unfortunate effect of the way our criminal law works. Pell’s barrister was placed in the position of arguing that Pell is innocent (and announced as soon as possible after the verdict that they will be filing an appeal). And yet the court now has to pass sentence, and it is his role as a defence lawyer to argue on his client’s behalf. Which means he essentially has to say “My client maintains his innocence , but as he has been found guilty then the following facts should be considered by the court…”

    What is harder to defend is the choice of arguments, especially that “plain vanilla sexual penetration” line, which most definitely belongs in the “what the hell were you thinking?” box. I can’t even see how it would help his client to say that.

  9. John Morales says

    Um, forgot the pullquote:

    But Professor Gans, an expert on criminal appeals, said he was not at all surprised at the language used by Robert Richter.

    He called it a “bog standard plea discussion”.

    “One of the terrible tasks that everyone has to do in sentencing is to rank the crime against every other possible crime that someone is charged with,” he said.

    “So if someone is charged with sexual penetration, you have to consider of all of the possible ways a child could be sexually penetrated and think — how does this rank in terms of seriousness.

    “So that’s what the vanilla comment is.”

  10. anat says

    So what all the arguments come down to is ‘the stuff you are accusing my client of (which he totally never actually did) isn’t big horrible rape, it’s just little cutesy rape’. Of a child.

  11. says

    God may not have been offended by the vanilla sex remark but the judge certainly was. I suspect that remark alone will extend Pell’s sentence. Incidentally Pell is being defended by all sorts of denizens of the far right including receiving a character reference from a former PM who was up to his criminal armpits in aiding and abetting the invasion of Iraq.

  12. bargearse says

    garydargan @ 15

    Unless of you’ve already inflicted it upon yourself I strongly recommend not reading John Howard’s character reference for Pell. I didn’t think it was possible to increase my loathing for Howard. I was wrong, so very, very wrong.

  13. says

    Sounds like the judge was not impressed.
    The curious thing is that both lawyer and convicted child rapist still also claim that nothing happened at all.

  14. akiwiinoz says

    It becomes even more horrifying when you realise that this man who John Howard (ex Prime Minister) describes as “a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character” and Terence K. Tobin, QC, “Privately, he has genuine compassion for the suffering of victims of abuse and an understanding of the lasting damage it does” was the architect of the Ellis defence.

    This was a legal stratagem that resulted in the Catholic church (and other institutions) being ruled not to be legal entities and thus unable to be sued for damages as a result of abuse by Catholic priests. Thus victimising survivors a second time.

    A man of compassion and exemplary character? Not by any definition

  15. Saad says

    jonmelbourne, #2

    Unfortunately he’s just doing his job, that’s the way the legal system works.

    I doubt every defense lawyer would make such horrific statements.

  16. thirdmill301 says

    As a trial attorney, I’ve thought about what I would have said had it been my job to defend Pell, and the problem his attorney has is that he really did have that much to work with in terms of good arguments. I don’t think that justifies making the really awful arguments that he made, and based on the judge’s comments I don’t think those arguments helped Pell at all.

    Probably the best he could have done would have been to argue that this conduct was an aberration (though that would have opened the door to the prosecution bringing in witnesses to show it wasn’t an aberration), or that he was under extreme stress at the time, or that whatever good he’s done should be taken into account. But at the end of the day, being a doctor sometimes means telling the patient that the cancer has metastasized and you’re going to die, and sometimes being a lawyer means telling your client there really aren’t any good arguments for your case and you just need to prepare yourself for a really bad outcome.

  17. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    “No more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating…”

    Which is rape. It is rape because of the child’s age. It is rape because of the perpetrator’s age. And the actively participating part? Pure red herring. The child could not legally participate no matter what. I remember, quite clearly, trying to please my abuser by asking, by begging, him to do things to me. In my mind, I actively participated (yet another thing I can’t get around). But, as I could not legally participate, I was not “actively participating.”

    DLC @14:

    Well, he saved the boy’s soul before blasting his life?
    oh, right, no souls . . . .

    Amazing how many of the men who have the job of telling everyone to be good or they go to hell are actually creating hell on earth for a child.

  18. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    This comes as no surprise to anyone who has had any contact with victims during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

  19. gobi's sockpuppet's meatpuppet says

    I wonder if Pell will be allowed to watch the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade on TV from his prison cell this weekend…

  20. jack16 says

    @21 thirdmill301
    I appreciate your description of the legal situation. To me, it seems that all reasonable adjectives are inadequate.


  21. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    From John Morales @11:

    “So if someone is charged with sexual penetration, you have to consider of all of the possible ways a child could be sexually penetrated and think — how does this rank in terms of seriousness.

    “So that’s what the vanilla comment is.”

    I’m starting to get way too emotionally invested in this. TRIGGER WARNING RECOUNTING SOME OF WHAT WAS DONE TO ME

    What he did isn’t so awful when you compare it to what he could have done? We are speaking to the sexual abuse of a child. By an adult with power — religious and physical power. The child had no power. None. Yet the argument here seems to be that if what the perpetrator did wasn’t nearly as bad as what he could have done, then the victim, the SURVIVOR, won’t be as affected so the punishment of rapist should be less.

    Reactions to trauma are not linear.

    I worked in New York City with the Incident Management Team after 9/11. I was down at the pile about a half-dozen times. I still have the hardhat which the caustic dust etched. I still have, occasionally, nightmares and olfactory illusions. Others were down there more and have lesser stress reactions. One man I used to work with was down at the pile once and ended up with a disability retirement.

    I was abused as a child and, all in all, I think I’m doing pretty well. Okay, the two or three years as I travelled from ‘I hated Cub Scouts and one of my scout leaders was a Perv” through “Oh, shit, he raped me and look at what else I did” to accceptence of what happened and what I did and, most important, why I did it and how I retrained my brain to not do it again were rough years.

    For a lawyer to make the argument that oral penetrative rape was not nearly as bad as what he could have done strikes me as really strange. One can always find a worse case: well, yeah, he murdered one person, but he was no Dahmer’ well, Dahmer murdered lots of people but he was no Pol Pot. Where does it end?

    Maybe I’m reading too much into this. As I wrote up top, I really am getting to emotionally invested here.

    It does tell me, though, that even if I had told others, and been believed, and gotten law enforcement to investigate, the chances of anything coming of it 40 or 45 years ago was zero. Minimization of the survivor’s experience, protecting the survivor from having to testify, and, of course, ‘it-could-have-been-worse’-ism, would all have been in play. As the are here. And every other place that survivors of sexual abuse by a religious figure (mine wasn’t, but the scouts, like the RCC, like any other religious group, had a vested interest in hiding problems that they knew existed) the experiences of survivors are minimized — he’s a good man, he didn’t use force, he didn’t rape you anally, he didn’t hit you, he didn’t force you, you enjoyed it, you wanted it.

  22. Matt G says

    Another brick in the wall, another nail in the coffin. How many other high ranking officials are guilty not only of cover-ups, but sexual crimes as well? By protecting others, they are also protecting themselves.

  23. cherbear says

    Unbelievable. Its amazing how survivors can cope with the aftermath especially considering the way children who speak out were treated by adults. And in this courtroom, you can see that there is still some of those attitudes on display. Those attitudes should have died in the 70’s when sexual abuse was first being talked about. Alas, they are still with us. The minimization, the not believing. Why can’t he just fess up?

  24. lanir says

    That wording… Wow.

    The grooming was having and enforcing a position of authority. It’s not like the child had no idea who this random man was.

    The defense that he was acting as a man and not a bishop is laughable. If mass had just finished, he would probably be in priestly regalia. If he was not, Catholic priests still tend to wear outfits that are all black with a white collar. It’s a sort of uniform. It might be a black cassock or just black slacks and a button up black shirt but the collar is there either way. Did his lawyer expect us to believe he pulled some kind of anti-magical girl transformation sequence and then raped the child?

    And that “no force greater than was required” thing… ugh. That’s a weasely way of saying he did use force, but that he’s not a pervy sadist, he’s a pervy child abusing rapist. I understand it would be worse for the child to be beaten up as well as being raped but I feel like bringing it up given Pell’s profession and background is another way of casting shade at practices that are perfectly fine between consenting adults. I’m not into S&M but it doesn’t bother me if my neighbors are. It DOES bother me if my neighbors are child abusing rapists.

    My reaction to the rest is similar enough to other comments to not be worth getting into. All I can add is I’m sorry to any of you who read this and are reminded of personal abuses you’ve suffered. Our cultural attitudes around sex are terrible and promote bad thinking. I hope you find the caring, understanding support you need to work through it. In the US you can look up RAINN for help.

  25. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Unfortunately he’s just doing his job, that’s the way the legal system works.

    I can’t imagine a lawyer having a legitimate duty to say things that will make their client MORE likely to get shanked.

  26. fledanow says

    Oh shit and the screams start up in my head again and they really shouldn’t it wasn’t that bad others had it worse and maybe it didn’t really happen at all

    Sorry. I’ll get a grip.

    I guess Richter has a point. Put in context like that, well, the survivor could even thank Pell for being so decent about it.

  27. MattP (must mock his crappy brain) says

    If he really truly believed he was innocent and that he was falsely convicted, then – as a powerful white guy that will inevitably get every benefit of the doubt to go along with his ridiculously expensive lawyers – why is he not simply accepting any sentence handed down ‘knowing’ it will quickly be overturned on appeal? If he is remanded pending appeal, it does not matter if the sentence is 3 years or 30 years when it gets overturned in under 2 years. A powerful white guy fighting tooth and nail against sentencing when he says he is innocent and will be freed upon appeal does not seem like he truly believes he is innocent, and claiming the crime was “not so bad as…” will garner little sympathy compared to restating one’s innocence and simply accepting the judge’s discretion.

    Seriously, he is not one of the terrifying number of men of color in the US being falsely convicted of a crime – given no real defense before/at trial or ability to appeal the verdict – desperately trying to not spend all his life in prison or death row for something he did not do but will never be believed even when exculpatory evidence inevitably surfaces.

  28. richardemmanuel says

    If only we knew who the leader of this transnational commercial paedophile ring was.

  29. says

    Can I… this bugs me. This really bugs me. “…the child is not actively participating…” Because, you know, even if the child is “actively participating”, that doesn’t make it not rape. That’s a child that’s been taught to do those things, taught that that’s what adults want from kids, a child who is 100% a victim.