Australian archbishop convicted of child sex abuse cover-up
NEWCASTLE, Australia (AP) — An Australian archbishop on Tuesday became the most senior Roman Catholic cleric in the world convicted of covering up child sex abuse and faces a potential two years in prison when he is sentenced next month.
Magistrate Robert Stone handed down the verdict against Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson in Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, following a magistrate-only trial.
Wilson, 67, had pleaded not guilty to concealing a serious crime committed by another person — the sexual abuse of children by paedophile priest James Fletcher in the 1970s.
Stone told the court that Wilson had concealed the abuse of two altar boys in the Hunter Valley region, north of Sydney, by Fletcher by failing to report the allegations to police.
Stone said he was satisfied that one of the altar boys, Peter Creigh, had been a “truthful and reliable” witness.
Wilson was released on bail until he appears at a sentencing hearing on June 9.
Prosecutors will argue for a custodial sentence.
In a statement issued by the Catholic Church, Wilson said he was disappointed by the conviction.
“I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps,” he said.
Prosecutor Gareth Harrison had submitted that Wilson was involved in a cover-up to protect the church’s reputation and there were doubts about his honesty.
Harrison argued that in Wilson’s mind, victims came second.
Wilson, who is suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease but maintains medication has helped his memory, told the court last month during his trial he could not remember Creigh and another altar boy telling him in 1976 they were abused by Fletcher.
The court has ordered Creigh can be named in media reports on his testimony, but the second accuser cannot be named for legal reasons.