«In seeking to mitigate the sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many.
«I hope my apology is accepted as sincerely as it is meant and I will never repeat such carelessness in my choice of words which might offend,» he said.
The cardinal was found guilty in December of orally raping one choirboy and molesting another in St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996. The verdict was made public on Tuesday after a suppression order was lifted.
The court heard that Pell will be classified as a serious sex offender once he is sentenced.
Mr Richter told the court on Wednesday that although the cardinal maintained that he was innocent, the crimes he had been found guilty of were short, not pre-meditated and no more than any other «plain vanilla case» of sexual penetration against a child.
When asked about whether he regretted describing Pell’s offending as «plain vanilla» outside court after the hearing, Mr Richter said he didn’t ‘‘know what [the reporter was] talking about’’.
The highly successful defence barrister is known for his colourful, theatrical style, in particular during cross-examination during criminal trials. Throughout his long career he has represented Melbourne gangland figures such as Mick Gatto.
During the trial, he said his client was perceived as the «Darth Vader» of the church, however, Judge Peter Kidd stressed to jurors they could not use Pell as scapegoat for church failings.
Mr Richter told the court in December the allegations levelled at Pell were a «far-fetched fantasy».
«Only a madman would attempt to rape boys in the priests’ sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass,» he told the jury in his closing address in early December last year.
He also said guilty verdicts weren’t based on possibilities. It was also possible, he said, the court building could blow up. «But we don’t conduct our lives on that basis.»
Simone is a breaking news reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Australian in Melbourne.