Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of historical child sexual offences. Picture: William West / AFP.
Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of historical child sexual offences. Picture: William West / AFP.

George Pell’s ultimate indignity

GEORGE Pell will likely have a target on his back in jail because prisoners "hate priest paedophiles" but it'll be hard for anyone to get to him, according to a convicted criminal who has spent years behind bars.

After being stripsearched, stripped of almost all his possessions and given a prison uniform upon his arrival yesterday, the man who was once one of the most powerful Catholic figures in the world spent his first night in a cramped, suicide-proof cell in an imposing red brick jail on Spencer Street, on the edge of the Melbourne's CBD.

Because of the notoriety of the case and the fact that paedophile's are often preyed on by other inmates, he is likely to spent 23 hours a day locked in his miserable solitary confinement cell.

His first night behind bars was in the "bone yard" - slang for the part of the prison that houses protected inmates such as sex offenders.

John Killick, who was jailed for shooting at a police officer in a failed bank robbery then infamously escaped a Sydney maximum security prison in a hijacked helicopter, told news.com.au that Pell "won't be safe" in prison, after the cardinal was found guilty of five child sex offences.

"Everybody hates paedophiles and so much has come out about the church that they really hate the priests doing it," Killick said.

Melbourne’s imposing red brick Assessment Prison. Picture: Ian Currie
Melbourne’s imposing red brick Assessment Prison. Picture: Ian Currie

"Paedophiles are deadset targets in jail … Pell wouldn't be safe.

"Criminals consider paedophiles lower than themselves.

"If he was put in the main area of any prison he could get bashed."

The verdict was delivered in December and first made public on Tuesday after months of procedural secrecy, and the abandonment of a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s. Pell, 77, was remanded in custody on Wednesday before spending his first night behind bars.

At a pre-sentence hearing in Melbourne's Victorian County Court yesterday, Magistrate chief Judge Peter Kidd, also expressed concerns over Pell's safety.

He said Pell might be considered a "lightning rod for the ills of the Catholic Church" while on remand and instructed the prosecution not to mention in open court where he will be imprisoned.

The disgraced cardinal is facing a maximum 50 year prison term and will be sentenced on March 13.

While Pell has his supporters, the public outrage towards him has been intense, with angry mobs jeering at him outside court.

"You're the devil. You're evil … You're a paedophile. You're a criminal. May you rot in hell," one protester shouted this morning.

But according to Killick, that's nothing compared to how Pell's fellow inmates might treat him, if they can get their hands on him.

George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrate Court on Monday. Picture: Tony Gough.
George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrate Court on Monday. Picture: Tony Gough.

It's highly likely Pell will go into protective custody where he will be kept separate from prisoners who might pose a threat to him. An offender may request, or a governor may direct an inmate, to be placed in protective custody if they believe the inmate's safety is at risk.

It'll be Corrections Victoria's responsibility to keep Pell safe behind bars but the department has refused to respond to questions regarding the matter.

"Corrections authorities conduct rigorous security and risk assessments on anyone coming into the prison system to ensure their placement is safe and secure," a statement from Corrections Victoria to news.com.au read.

"Prisoner placements are regularly monitored and reviewed, and may be modified where an assessment finds that their risk and individual requirements have changed.

"Corrections Victoria does not discuss individual prisoners or placements."

According to Killick, high profile paedophiles "always stay in protection" where they share cells and communal spaces with each other in Australian prisons.

"There are special wings for them," he said.

"Pell won't see, I would say, the normal run of prisoners. They might even send him to minimum security."

Anita Cobby’s killers (L-R): John Travers, Michael Murphy, Leslie Murphy, Gary Murphy and Michael Murdoch.
Anita Cobby’s killers (L-R): John Travers, Michael Murphy, Leslie Murphy, Gary Murphy and Michael Murdoch.

Killick, who was jailed in the same prisons as some of Australia's worst criminals, said Anita Cobby's killers and notorious paedophile Dolly Dunn were just some examples of inmates who were kept in protective custody during his time in jail.

He said criminals who were granted high protection could be seen at times through security fences or other barriers but that those in the main sections of the prisons couldn't get to them.

"If they were ever put in the main prison, they would have probably been killed," he said.

"But they've very well protected because the guards know they'd be targeted."

According to Killick, Pell could lead a relatively peaceful life on the inside, if he is granted the right protections.

"It'd be almost impossible for anyone to get to him in high protective custody. Unless it was one of his own (another inmate in high protective custody)," he said.

"The system has changed and Corrective Services has a duty of care of prisoners and they're bound to look after them, particularly high profile paedophiles.

"Life for Pell will be easy if he stays in high protective. He'd be someone who would do a lot of reading, write letters, watch television.

"He wouldn't want to be mixing with young guys anyway."

 

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin

 

Pell is likely to spent 23 hours a day locked in his miserable solitary confinement cell.
Pell is likely to spent 23 hours a day locked in his miserable solitary confinement cell.
John Killick has spent most of his adult life in Australian prisons. Picture: Jonathan Ng
John Killick has spent most of his adult life in Australian prisons. Picture: Jonathan Ng

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