Cover-up: cleric cleared
Ex-archbishop has conviction for covering up child abuse by paedophile priest overturned
THE BREXIT deal which Prime Minister Theresa May wants to get through the British parliament next week was the best Britain would get to arrange its orderly withdrawal from the EU, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday.
“The agreement that is on the table – the withdrawal agreement and the agreement on the future relationship – are, in our view, the only and best possible to organise an orderly withdrawal,” he told a gathering of European regional delegates in Brussels. | Reuters AUSTRALIAN former archbishop Philip Wilson has had his conviction for covering up child sex abuse overturned on appeal.
In May, the 68-year-old priest became the most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse in relation to crimes committed by a paedophile priest in the 1970s.
But yesterday Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis upheld Wilson’s appeal, concluding there was reasonable doubt that he had committed the offence.
Wilson, who resigned as archbishop of Adelaide in July, had been serving his 12-month sentence in home detention at his sister’s home in New South Wales.
Wilson, who has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s, did not appear in court for the ruling.
Father Philip Marshall, the administrator delegate of the Adelaide Archdiocese, said the Catholic Church would consider the ramifications of the court’s decision.
“We note the outcome of the judgment handed down today by Judge Roy Ellis and welcome the conclusion of a process that has been long and painful for all concerned,” he said.
Judge Ellis also threw out an appeal by public prosecutors regarding the leniency of Wilson’s sentence. They had asked for jail, not home arrest.
Wilson was an assistant parish priest in East Maitland in New South Wales when the abuse took place.
His magistrate-only trial in May found that he knew that priest James Fletcher was sexually abusing altar boys, but dismissed their “credible allegations” because of his desire to protect the Church and its reputation.
Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 on nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in jail two years later.
During his trial, Wilson claimed to have no memory of a 1976 conversation he had with the alleged victims, but the judge found that the archbishop knew enough that he should have come forward when Fletcher was charged with child sex offences.
During the appeal last week, Wilson’s lawyers said he was not guilty because the case was circumstantial and there was no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the clergyman had been told about the abuse, believed it was true or remembered being told about it.
One of the two altar boys, Peter Creigh, was in tears after the judge’s decision yesterday. “Bulls*** – that’s a disgrace,” one onlooker said in the courtroom after the judge had left.
It is likely that prosecutors will appeal yesterday’s ruling.
Australia has struggled to confront the prevalence of child sexual abuse in the nation’s Catholic Church and other institutions.
Last year, a five-year-long Royal Commission of Inquiry into child sexual abuse found tens of thousands of children had been sexually abused between 1960 and 2015 in institutions in Australia, including schools, churches and religious organisations. | dpa
FORMER Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court, in Newcastle, Australia, after a post-sentence decision in this August 2018 file picture.