22 May 2018Hot off the Press
Image credit: Sky News
Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson is now the most senior Catholic official to be convicted of concealing child sexual abuse after he was found guilty by a New South Wales court on Tuesday.
The 67-year-old was accused of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s in an attempt to protect the church’s reputation, Magistrate Robert Stone said.
The archbishop could spend two years in jail for the crime, the harshest sentence that Mr Stone can impose.
Mr Wilson will remain on bail under the condition that he attends his sentencing hearing, which will be held on June 19.
Throughout the trial, Mr Wilson’s defence team made four attempts to throw out the case altogether on the grounds that it was not in the public interest, and that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, which should preclude him from the trial; even though the disease did not preclude him from his position in the church.
The magistrate declared that the victim, Peter Creigh, was a believable and reliable witness, and continued to read out the verdict before a packed courtroom.
“I am satisfied and find that Mr Creigh described to the accused he performed fellatio on Fletcher and masturbated Mr Fletcher,” Magistrate Stone said.
Peter Creigh was only 15 years old when he told Mr Wilson that he was sexually abused by Mr Fletcher.
The magistrate refused to believe that the archbishop could not remember the sensitive conversation that took place in 1976, saying that Mr Creigh, “had no motive or interest to deceive or make up the conversation”.
Magistrate Stone said Mr Wilson knew “what he was hearing was a credible allegation and the accused wanted to protect the church and its reputation”.
The magistrate also said that if Wilson had reported what he knew to police, it would have helped in prosecuting Fletcher.
Mr Wilson’s barrister made the argument that the archbishop should never have been accused of concealing the abuse, because at the time of the offences, the offences would have been considered ‘indecent acts’ not the indictable offence of ‘indecent assault’.