Tears as Wilson wins his appeal
A NSW judge has quashed former Adelaide archbishop Philip Wilson’s conviction for covering up child sex abuse by a paedophile priest in the NSW Hunter region to protect the Catholic Church.
Newcastle District Court judge Roy Ellis yesterday upheld Wilson’s appeal against his conviction, saying there was reasonable doubt the clergyman had committed the crime.
Judge Ellis said that suspicion was not a substitute for proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Wilson, 68, who had served almost four months in home detention at his sister’s home, was allowed to watch the judge hand down his decision via video link from a remote location so he didn’t have to face the media.
The judge yesterday also threw out an appeal by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions against the leniency of magistrate Robert Stone’s decision that Wilson should serve 12 months of home detention.
The prosecution case was that Wilson was told by two altar boys in 1976 that they’d been abused by paedophile priest James Fletcher but the clergyman did nothing about it.
It was alleged he subsequently failed to go to the police after Fletcher was arrested in 2004 for abusing another boy.
One of the two altar boys, Peter Creigh, was in tears after the judge’s decision yesterday.
He was too upset to comment outside court.
As the judge left the bench one onlooker called out: “Bulls*** – that’s a disgrace.”
Wilson was facing a maximum of two years in jail when he was sentenced on August 14 to spend at least six months at his sister’s home before being eligible for parole.
He was forced to resign as archbishop of Adelaide in July after becoming the most senior Catholic clergyman in the world to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.
The magistrate who found Wilson guilty rejected claims the clergyman – who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – could not remember the two altar boys telling him about the abuse in 1976.
Fletcher was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing another boy and died of a stroke in jail in early 2006.
The defence claimed Wilson was not guilty because the case was circumstantial and there was no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the clergyman was told about the abuse, believed it was true or remembered being told about it.
BULLS*** – THAT’S A DISGRACE ONLOOKER IN COURT