Archbishop Philip Wilson: 12 Months' Detention For Concealing Child Sexual Abuse

He's the most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing sex crimes.

What you need to know
  • Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months detention, with a six month non-parole period
  • Court has been adjourned until August so his order can be assessed for home detention
  • Wilson hasn't resigned from his role as Adelaide Archbishop, and if he continues to refuse to do so, it will be up to the Pope to sack him

It’s over a month since Archbishop Philip Wilson was condemned as the highest ranking Catholic official in the world to be convinced of concealing child sex abuse.

But he has remained silent -- steadfastly refusing to answer questions, and, more shockingly, refusing to resign.

As he slowly made his way up the street to Newcastle court to hear his sentence other officials from the church were by his side. They were there as he was given a custodial sentence for his crime.

The Adelaide Archbishop, 67, was previously found guilty of failing to report to police the historical assault of two altar boys in the 1970s and 80s.

The magistrate found Wilson wanted to protect the image of the church when he concealed the actions of paedophile priest James Fletcher in Newcastle.

“He was in a position of trust and people relied on him to do the right thing,” Magistrate Robert Stone said.

Wilson's lawyer said he suffered from a range of conditions including a potential diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, and shouldn’t be put in detention.

“It is noteworthy that he did not report the issue before the hearing and was adequately performing his duties,” Stone said.

Wilson arrives at Newcastle Local Court for his sentencing. Image: AAP.
Survivors Say Conviction A Positive Outcome Despite No Jail Time

Peter Creigh was just 10-years-old when he was abused by James Fletcher. When he was 15 he told Wilson -- then an assistant parish priest what had happened.

But Wilson did nothing.

Victims of Father Fletcher today said while they were disappointed Wilson wouldn’t go to jail, it was still a positive outcome.

“I think it’s a landmark case across the world,” Peter Gogarty said.

“I am very pleased we’ve got a conviction.”

The victims they say they want this case to be a warning to others. No longer can child abuse be covered up. No longer will their stories not be heard.

And if he won’t resign, it’ll be up to the Pope to sack him.

Catholic Bishops Say Changes Have Been Made To Prevent Future Cover-Ups

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference have released a statement saying they hope survivors of abuse at the hands of Fr. Fletcher can feel peace and healing following the conviction and sentencing of Archbishop Wilson.

"It takes great courage for survivors to come forward to tell their stories," the statement reads.

"Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the Cunneen Inquiry."

The statement also highlights that covering up sexual abuse in the church will not be tolerated as part of the future conduct of the Catholic Church.

"The Church has made substantial changes to ensure that abuse and cover-up are not part of Catholic life and that children are safe in our communities."

Archbishop Philip Wilson Leaving Newcastle Local Court