Australian archbishop’s abuse cover-up conviction quashed

Adelaide’s former archbishop, Philip Wilson, has had his sex abuse cover-up conviction quashed by an Australian appeal court.

Wilson had been found guilty in May of concealing the abuse of altar boys in the 1970s by paedophile priest James Fletcher. At the time, he was the most senior cleric in the world ever to be convicted of covering up sex abuse.

Last week, the New South Wales appeal court judge Roy Ellis ruled in Wilson’s favour, saying there was reasonable doubt he had ever committed the crime.

The crime is punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

Wilson had served almost four months of his year-long home detention sentence at his sister’s house. He was to become eligible for parole after serving six months.

He has always maintained his innocence. After his conviction he initially refused calls for his resignation until he had exhausted his appeal options.

However, after former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on the Vatican to act to force him to resign, Wilson sent Pope Francis his resignation as the archbishop of Adelaide in June.

Administrator Delegate of the Adelaide Archdiocese, Philip Marshall – who is Wilson’s replacement – says the church has noted the judgment and welcomed the conclusion of a process that had been long and painful for all concerned.

“We now need to consider the ramifications of this outcome,” Marshall said in a statement.

“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.”


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