Tears as Wil­son wins his ap­peal

The Gold Coast Bulletin - - NATION -

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.


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