Aus­tralian court quashes Catholic priest sex abuse cover-up con­vic­tion

Global Times - - WORLD - Page Edi­tor: wang­[email protected]­al­

An Aus­tralian court on Thurs­day over­turned the con­vic­tion of a for­mer arch­bishop who had been the world’s most se­nior Catholic cleric held guilty of con­ceal­ing child sex abuse, say­ing pros­e­cu­tors failed to prove their case be­yond rea­son­able doubt.

Judge Roy El­lis ruled in fa­vor of an ap­peal by Philip Wil­son, the for­mer arch­bishop of Ade­laide and a for­mer pres­i­dent of the Catholic Church’s top body in Aus­tralia, against his con­vic­tion in May, court doc­u­ments show.

“The ap­peal is up­held,” read a sum­mary of the de­ci­sion emailed to Reuters by a court spokes­woman. “The con­vic­tion and the or­ders of the lo­cal court are quashed.”

El­lis de­liv­ered the de­ci­sion at New­cas­tle Dis­trict Court in New South Wales, free­ing Wil­son, 68, from de­ten­tion for a year at his sis­ter’s home, as an al­ter­na­tive to prison, af­ter his con­vic­tion for fail­ing to dis­close abuse to po­lice.

The judge held that pros­e­cu­tors failed to prove be­yond rea­son­able doubt that Wil­son had been told of the ac­cu­sa­tions, and that if he had been told, that he was suf­fi­ciently con­vinced of guilt, but failed to act.

At trial, Wil­son had said he could not re­mem­ber the ac­cu­sa­tions be­ing raised with him in 1976.

“I’m not up for talk­ing,” Peter Creighton, an al­tar boy at the time of the al­leged abuse, who said he had raised the is­sue with Wil­son, told re­porters out­side the court, as he held back tears.

The Ade­laide arch­dio­cese said it wel­comed the con­clu­sion of a process that had been long and painful for all con­cerned.

“We now need to con­sider the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of this out­come,” its ad­min­is­tra­tor del­e­gate, Fa­ther Philip Mar­shall, said in a state­ment that gave no fur­ther de­tails, but added the sur­vivors of child abuse “are in our thoughts and prayers.”

Wil­son had been ac­cused of cov­er­ing up the abuse, by Fa­ther James Fletcher, af­ter be­ing told about it in 1976 by two vic­tims, one of them an al­tar boy who al­legedly told him in the con­fes­sional.

Lawyers for Wil­son had main­tained he did not know Fletcher had abused a boy. Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sex­ual abuse and died in jail in 2006, fol­low­ing a stroke.

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