Fall­out as court frees for­mer Arch­bishop

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - MITCH MOTT

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.

Pic­ture: AAP

LIB­ERTY: For­mer Ade­laide Arch­bishop Philip Wil­son faces the me­dia out­side court ear­lier this year.

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