Australian archbishop sentenced to year's detention for child sex abuse cover-up

Leroy Wright
July 4, 2018

Mrs Halpin said she was disappointed Wilson might serve his sentence in his sister's home on the Central Coast rather than jail, but was happy that magistrate Robert Stone rejected Wilson's lawyer's submission that a good behaviour bond was a suitable penalty.

In sentencing, Stone said "there is no remorse or contrition showed by the offender".

Both men expect more people within the Catholic Church and beyond to be charged with hide offences.

"Those who hide abuse and shield perpetrators from accountability ... are demonstrating that you are placing the needs of the perpetrator as a higher priority over the needs of victims and their families", Mr Stone said. Survivors in the court including victims of Fletcher muttered their frustration the archbishop was not sent to prison.

Archbishop Wilson was released on bail until a final hearing in August after he is assessed for whether he can serve the 12-month jail sentence as home detention.

"On that basis, the only available remaining option is full-time imprisonment or home detention".

A senior Catholic Church official has avoided jail and will spend six months in home detention for concealing child sex crimes. "So I am content that we've done something in Australia that nobody else has been able to manage". The then-teenager went to Wilson for help, but he did nothing.

Other victims advocates were less enthused.

Peter Creigh, who was one of the two boys abused by Fletcher, could not attend the proceedings.

"We have an understanding of the seal of confession that is in the area of the sacred", he added.

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"There is much more at stake than just a slap on the wrist or some public embarrassment", he said.

A five-year national inquiry into child abuse recommended in December that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Mr Gogarty and Mr Feenan called for Wilson, who has stood down as Adelaide archbishop, to resign or be removed by Pope Francis.

The Adelaide archbishop, 67, was found guilty in May of concealing abuse by notorious paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in the Hunter region of New South Wales state during the 1970s by failing to report allegations against him. The eight charges were committed between 1989 and 1991. The maximum sentence for the crime was two years in jail.

During the case Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison had to prove that former alter boy Peter Creig told Archbishop Wilson about the sexual abuse in 1976.

"We should be very aware of the impact on survivors, their families and all those who love them", the archdiocese's apostolic administrator said.

"It's a decision that will hopefully unravel the hypocrisy, the deceit, and the abuse of power and trust that the Church has displayed", he told the ABC.

"These things are also a deep shock to those who, like me, have known Phillip Wilson for many years or who, having followed the proceedings of The Royal Commission, are aware of his vigorous actions against child abusers as a bishop".

Tens of thousands of children had been abused in various Australian institutions, including the Catholic Church over the last 90 years, the commission estimated.

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