Was it even a crime? Former archbishop appealing conviction

Former Australian archbishop, Philip Wilson, is appealing his conviction for not reporting allegations of child sexual abuse disclosed to him in the 1970s.

Wilson told the court via electronic communication that he is innocent and had no recollection of the accusations of abuse committed by Fr James Fletcher when Fletcher was charged with child sex abuse in 2004.

He said if he had been notified of Fletcher’s abuse, he would have offered pastoral care to the victims and their families, and reported the event to his superiors.

Wilson’s lawyer, Stephen Odgers, told the court one of Fletcher’s victims, Peter Creigh, may not have clearly communicated that he had been indecently assaulted.

In any case, Odgers argued Wilson cannot be convicted of concealing indecent assault, because the sex act described under 1970s law was an act of indecency and not an assault.

He also pointed out that “unattractive as it is, there is no indecent assault” when you invite a child to perform a sex act.

Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis countered this, saying that it was an assault under 1970s law.

“I don’t think, in this case, that this is going to be a problem for the prosecution. You have some problems, but this isn’t one of them,” Ellis said.

Odgers also questioned the archbishop’s memory of a conversation held 28 years before Fletcher was charged and that he may not have known the information could be of assistance to the police.

In response, Ellis said: “We have all experienced having forgotten something and being reminded about it and realising you had made a mistake and you were wrong,”

Ellis also noted that Wilson’s behavior with a priest who had asked him for advice relating to another boy Fletcher abused was inconsistent with him knowing and failing to report Creigh’s story.

In 2004 Fr Glen Walsh approached the archbishop who “advised Father Walsh he … should be reporting it to police,” Ellis said.

“The way he acted in my mind runs completely contrary to him realising and then not remembering Peter Creigh’s evidence.”

Wilson, who was sentenced to 12 months home detention in May, did not appear in court for the appeal.

Ellis is expected to deliver his judgment on 6 December.



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