Australian Catholic Archbishop On Trial For Concealing Child Sex Abuse

9 News

“The trial of Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson, who’s accused of concealing child sex abuse, came to end on Friday after eight days in a Newcastle court.

Following final submissions, magistrate Robert Stone told the court he won’t be able to deliver a verdict until next month.

It’s a verdict that could have wide-reaching implications.

Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been accused of concealing sexual abuse by convicted paedophile priest Jim Fletcher. (AAP)Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been accused of concealing sexual abuse by convicted paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

In scathing submissions, the Archbishop was also accused of lying in court while under oath.

“The way the accused answered questions, your honour would have serious doubts as to his honesty,” said prosecutor Gareth Harrison.

“The accused was like a cat on a hot tin roof when answering those questions, he ducked and he weaved.”

But Philip Wilson’s defence labelled those claims unfair and misleading.

Archbishop Wilson's trial has ended, with a verdict due to come in May. (AAP)

Archbishop Wilson’s trial has ended, with a verdict due to come in May.

“This is a person who is being precise in the answers he gives,” said defence lawyer Stephen Odgers.

The defence called into question the accuracy of Peter Creigh’s memory about what he told Philip Wilson decades ago.

“The risk of memory distortion is that he comes to believe inaccurately what he did convey,” said Odgers.

Philip Wilson made no comment when asked if he intended to continue in his role as the Catholic Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide while awaiting the verdict.

Peter Creigh was a 10-year-old altar boy when he was abused by priest Jim Fletcher. (AAP)

Peter Creigh was a 10-year-old altar boy when he was abused by priest Jim Fletcher.

 

Throughout the trial Philip Wilson was silent when questioned while walking in and out of court with supporters attempting to shield him for media cameras.

Who is Philip Wilson?

Philip Wilson is the current serving Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide.

The 67-year-old was born in Cessnock, NSW and ordained into the Catholic Church in 1975.

Aged 25, he was posted to the Parish of East Maitland as an assistant priest and rose through the church ranks in the Hunter Valley before being appointed as the Bishop of Wollongong in 1996.

9NEWS reporter Jarrad Brevi (left) offers Archbishop Wilson an opportunity to comment. (AAP)

Archbishop Wilson

In November 2000 he was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

The Charge

Philip Wilson was charged by NSW Police in March 2015 with one count of concealing a serious offence. He is the highest ranking Catholic clergyman in the world to be charged with concealing sexual abuse.

The charge relates to the sexual abuse of Hunter Valley man Peter Creigh in 1971 by convicted paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

Peter Creigh was a 10-year-old altar boy when he was abused by Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.

Philip Wilson has not said whether he will continue as Archbishop of Adelaide before the verdict. (AAP)Philip Wilson has not said whether he will continue as Archbishop of Adelaide before the verdict.

It’s alleged in 1976 when Peter Creigh was 15, he told Philip Wilson what Fletcher did to him years earlier. Peter Creigh claims he raised the matter again with Philip Wilson months later but nothing was done.

When Fletcher was arrested and charged with sexually abusing an altar boy in 2004, it’s alleged then Philip Wilson should have had knowledge or belief that Peter Creigh was the victim of a serious offence committed by Fletcher, based on what Peter Creigh told him in 1976.

Peter Creigh did not seek to initiate the charges – he was approached in 2013 by investigators involved in the special commission of inquiry into matters relating to sexual abuse allegations in the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Philip Wilson denies the charge.

The Trial

The trial of Philip Wilson started in Newcastle on Wednesday, December 6, following three unsuccessful attempts by the defence to have the proceedings quashed.

There were also delays due to last-minute concerns the Archbishop may be unfit to stand trial after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was, however deemed fit to stand trial following a neuropsychologist’s report.

Both the prosecution and defence agree Peter Creigh was sexually abused by Fletcher in 1971.

What is in dispute, is the allegation that Peter Creigh told Philip Wilson about the sexual abuse.

Philip Wilson claims he has no memory of Peter Creigh telling him graphic details about what Fletcher subjected him to.

The prosecution claims Philip Wilson does remember but didn’t tell police because he acted to protect the reputation of the Catholic Church.

To be convicted, the magistrate must be convinced beyond reasonable doubt that; the alleged conversation occurred, Philip Wilson remembers the alleged conversation, he believed what he was told in the alleged conversation, and believed he had information that would assist police.

What’s next

Magistrate Robert Stone is expected to delivery a verdict mid-May.

If found guilty, the offence of concealing a serious offence in NSW carries a maximum penalty of two years jail.”

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