Court finds Adelaide Archbishop guilty

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse at a hearing in Newcastle Local Court.

The 67-year-old was accused of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s.

Following the verdict, Archbishop Wilson said he was considering his options.

“I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today,” he said.

“I will now have to consider the reasons [for the judgment] and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps.

“I do not propose to make any further comment at this stage.”

The prosecution alleged the Archbishop knew late paedophile priest James Patrick Fletcher had indecently assaulted Hunter Valley man Peter Creigh when he was a 10-year-old altar boy, and that despite knowing that information, he failed to assist police in prosecuting Fletcher.

Mr Creigh told the court that in 1976, when he was 15, he told Archbishop Wilson, then a priest, what Fletcher had done to him years earlier in 1971.

Mr Creigh claims he raised the matter again with Archbishop Wilson months later but nothing was done.

Fletcher died in jail in 2006.

In handing down his guilty verdict Magistrate Robert Stone said he found “the offence proved” and Mr Creigh to be an honest and reliable witness.

The Archbishop faced an eight-day trial earlier this year after being charged in March, 2015, with one count of concealing a serious indictable offence. The charge carries a maximum penalty of two-year imprisonment.

The prosecution has called for a custodial sentence.

Australian Catholic Bishop Conference President Archbishop Mark Coleridge said following about the verdict: “Archbishop Philip Wilson has today been found guilty of failing to inform police about allegations of child sexual abuse.

“Archbishop Wilson maintained his innocence throughout this long judicial process. It is not yet clear if he will appeal the verdict.

“The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of child sexual abuse and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults.

“The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the Church and its ministries.”

Archbishop Wilson remains on bail until his sentence hearing on June 19.

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