9:30am Apr 14, 2018
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.
During final submissions by the prosecution, the Archbishop was accused of being a “consummate Catholic politician” and a man who was part of “an entrenched toxic culture of covering things up”.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been accused of concealing sexual abuse by convicted paedophile priest Jim Fletcher. (AAP)
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)
“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)
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)
In November 2000 he was appointed Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.
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)
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 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.
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.
Decision reserved in Archbishop Wilson case
14 April 2018
by Mark Brolly
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide faces up to 2 years in jail if convicted of concealing child abuse
Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide has joined Rome-based Australian Cardinal George Pell in being required to wait for Australian courts of law to determine their fates.
Magistrate Robert Stone in Newcastle Local Court, north of Sydney, reserved his decision on On 13 April, in Archbishop Wilson’s trial on a charge of concealing child sexual abuse by a fellow priest, Fr James Fletcher, when the Archbishop was an assistant priest in his home Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in the 1970s.
The 67-year-old prelate, who has been Archbishop of Adelaide since 2001 and is a former President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, faces up to two years in jail if convicted.
This week, he told the court that medication had helped his memory since he was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease late last year.
Fletcher was sentenced to imprisonment on nine counts of child sexual abuse in December 2004 and died in prison in January 2006.
Cardinal Pell, who is on leave from his Vatican post as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, is waiting to hear if Magistrate Belinda Wallington will commit him to trial on multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants after a four-week hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court last month. The 76-year-old Cardinal, a former Archbishop of Melbourne and later of Sydney, has strenuously denied the charges, the details of which have not yet been made public.
The court is to sit again on Tuesday (17 April) to rule on supplementary submissions from the defence and the prosecution’s response, with Cardinal Pell excused from attending the sitting.
Ms Wallington’s decision on whether to commit Cardinal Pell to trial in either the County Court or the Supreme Court in the State of Victoria is expected later this month.
Archbishop Wilson, too, denies the charge against him, with his defence arguing that he is not guilty because the case is circumstantial and there’s no evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was told about the abuse, believed it was true or remembered being told about it.
Closing arguments were heard on the final day of Archbishop Wilson’s trial, with Prosecutor Gareth Harrison saying Mr Stone should have doubts about Archbishop Wilson’s honesty, describing him as consummate Catholic politician who “was part of an entrenched, toxic culture of covering things up.” He had ducked and weaved in his attempts not to incriminate himself, Mr Harrison said.
“Victims come second,” he said.
Mr Harrison accused Archbishop Wilson of acting like a “cat on a hot tin roof” when trying to absolve himself of guilt over claims that he covered up child sex abuse.
But Mr Stephen Odgers, SC, said in his closing address for the defence that Archbishop Wilson hadn’t been ducking and weaving questions but rather had been careful to give precise answers.
Mr Odgers said even if Mr Stone had serious doubts about the Archbishop’s honesty, there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he was lying. He urged the Magistrate to accept that Archbishop Wilson was an honest person despite the mud thrown at him by the prosecutor.
On 12 April, Mr Harrison had cross-examined Archbishop Wilson and asked what it would take for him to believe allegations of abuse by four boys. The Archbishop replied that belief had to be based “on an admission or the end of a trial with a conviction”.
The prosecution alleged that in a 2004 conversation with the father of one of Fletcher’s victims – who said, “If I had a gun, I would kill him (Fletcher)” – the Archbishop had replied: “I wouldn’t blame you.”
Archbishop Wilson told the court that he could have said that to the victim’s father, as “I could understand how he would feel”.
Pic: The Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, arrives at the Newcastle Local Court in Newcastle, Friday April 13, 2018. (AAP Image/Darren Pateman/PA)