Australia: Court overturns conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson

  • Dan Bergin
  • (Updated )

Bishop Wilson - screen shot

Bishop Wilson - screen shot

A former Catholic archbishop in Australia has had his conviction for concealing child sexual abuse overturned.

Bishop Peter Wilson, 68, a former President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, became the world's most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up sexual abuse at his trial in May this year. He was given a 12 month home detention sentence at the home of his sister.

The bishop consistently denied knowing that paedophile priest James Patrick Fletcher had abused boys in the 1970s. Fletcher was convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004, and died in jail in 2006.

Bishop Wilson launched an appeal at which the judge was asked to consider whether prosecutors had proved beyond reasonable doubt that he had failed to report allegations against Fletcher.

After reviewing the case, at yesterday's appeal hearing, Judge Roy Ellis in New South Wales said there were reasonable doubts about Philip Wilson's conviction.

Judge Ellis said Bishop Wilson had been honest and consistent. The judge said he had considered whether Mr Wilson had taken the "reasonable position of having an open mind about the allegations, so that he would not have reported them to police until he had a strong belief they were true."

In a statement on behalf of the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide, Father Philip Marshall said: "We note the outcome of the judgement handed down today by Judge Roy Ellis in the Newcastle District Court and welcome the conclusion of a process that has been long and painful for all concerned. We now need to consider the ramifications of this outcome. The survivors of child sexual abuse and their families are in our thoughts and prayers, and the Archdiocese remains committed to providing the safest possible environments for children and vulnerable people in our care.

Tags: Child Abuse, Abuse, Archbishop Peter Wilson, Australia, Adelaide

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