Archbishop gets detention for sex abuse cover-up

SYDNEY • An Australian archbishop, the most senior Catholic cleric in the world convicted of concealing child sex abuse in the church, was sentenced to a year in detention yesterday.

Philip Wilson, 67, will remain on bail while he is assessed by prison authorities for home detention, instead of jail. He will face the court next month for a decision on where he will serve the sentence.

In sentencing remarks, Newcastle Court Magistrate Robert Stone said: "There is no remorse or contrition shown by the offender."

Wilson was convicted in May of not disclosing to police abuse by priest James Fletcher after being told about it in 1976 by two victims, including an altar boy who told him inside the confessional.

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

Wilson's sentence was hailed as an important victory by abuse survivors.

"That is a landmark case right across the world... the conviction sticks," Mr Peter Creigh, who was abused by Fletcher, told reporters outside the court in Newcastle, north of Sydney.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the country's top Catholic body which Wilson once led, said in a statement that it hoped the sentence brought some "sense of peace and healing" to those abused.

Dressed in black and wearing a cleric's collar, he made no remarks to journalists outside the court, television footage showed.

Wilson stood aside only last month as the archbishop of Adelaide. The court was told that he had early stage Alzheimer's disease, a factor that may be taken into account in determining where he serves the term.

Allegations of sexual abuse cover-ups have continued to rock the Catholic Church years after perpetrators of sexual abuse started appearing regularly before the courts.

In Chile, the country's 34 bishops in May offered to resign over allegations of a cover-up.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2018, with the headline 'Archbishop gets detention for sex abuse cover-up'. Print Edition | Subscribe