Archbishop sentenced for concealing child sex abuse

BY: BBC
 Archbishop Philip Wilson was convicted in May
Archbishop Philip Wilson was convicted in May

A Catholic archbishop in Australia has been given a maximum sentence of 12 months in detention for concealing child sexual abuse in the 1970s.

Philip Wilson, now archbishop of Adelaide, is the most senior Catholic globally to be convicted of the crime.

He was found guilty by a court last month of covering up abuse by a paedophile priest in New South Wales.

On Tuesday, the court ordered Wilson to be assessed for "home detention" - meaning he will probably avoid jail.

Magistrate Robert Stone said the senior clergyman had shown "no remorse or contrition". He will be eligible for parole after six months.

Wilson has not resigned as archbishop, despite relinquishing his duties in the wake of his conviction.


In May, a court found he had failed to report his colleague James Patrick Fletcher's abuse of altar boys to police.

Wilson, then a junior priest in the Maitland region, had dismissed young victims in a bid to protect the Church's reputation, Magistrate Stone ruled.

Fletcher was convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004, and died in jail two years later.

What did the court hear?

During his trial, Wilson denied that he had known about Fletcher's actions.

The archbishop's lawyers had sought to have the case thrown out on four occasions, citing the 67-year-old's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease.

One of his victims, former altar boy Peter Creigh, told the court he had described the abuse to Wilson in detail in 1976, five years after it took place.

Magistrate Stone rejected Wilson's claims that he had no memory of the conversation, and said he had found Mr Creigh to be a reliable witness.

Another victim, who cannot be named, testified that Wilson had told him he was telling lies, and to recite 10 Hail Mary prayers as punishment.

What has been the reaction?

Survivors of abuse said they had mixed feelings about the sentence. One, Peter Gogarty, said it was "probably letting [Wilson] off a little bit too lightly".

However, Mr Gogarty said: "We have made history here in Australia.

"The highest-ranking church official to ever be brought to account [for] what we know was a worldwide, systematic abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse."

Mr Creigh did not attend the hearing on Tuesday due to health reasons.

But earlier he told the Adelaide Advertiser that "irrespective of the sentencing, the victory was had" in May when Wilson was convicted.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said it hoped that the sentence would "bring some sense of peace" to Fletcher's victims. It added that the Church had made "substantial changes" to prevent abuse and its concealment.