Fallout as court frees former Archbishop
A VICTIM of child sex abuse at the hands of a priest says he has been left “cut to the bone” by a judge’s decision to overturn former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson’s conviction for covering up child abuse.
Bishop Wilson walked from court a free man on Thursday after successfully appealing his conviction for covering up the abuse of altar boys in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s and ’80s.
Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis found that there was “no direct evidence” that Bishop Wilson had concealed the crimes of paedophile priest Father James Patrick Fletcher.
However, Peter Creigh, who was abused up to 15 times at the hands of Fletcher in 1971 has called the decision a “travesty of justice”.
“Am I disappointed? Yes, not just for myself but for all witnesses, their families, the police involved and also the greater community,” Mr Creigh said.
“This decision has let us all down. After all we have been through, the community expect better and deserve better.
“For me personally, this really cuts to the bone.
“It hurts when an egocentric judge disbelieves you on what took place and what was said between myself and Bishop Wilson some 42 years ago on two separate occasions that I went to him for help.
“The horrifying fear of being disbelieved and discredited.”
Mr Creigh said that before and during the trial, he had been intimidated and warned off giving evidence against Bishop Wilson. Bishop Wilson, who is suffering early-stage Alzheimer’s, was the world’s highest ranking church official to be prosecuted for covering up child sexual abuse.
In May, he was found guilty of covering up Fletcher’s crimes and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
Six months of the sentence was to be spent on home detention at his sister’s house on the New South Wales Central Coast.
Bishop Wilson appealed against his conviction while the prosecution appealed against the leniency of the sentence.
The decision to dismiss the conviction will impact prosecutions against other church and community officials charged with similar offences.
Wilson was appointed Adelaide Archbishop in 2001 and was charged in March 2015.
He refused to resign in the lead-up to the trial, but after being found guilty, he bowed to pressure in July and stepped down from his senior role in the Catholic Church.
It is unclear whether Bishop Wilson will return to his previous role.
LIBERTY: Former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson faces the media outside court earlier this year.