Australian Associated Press
The trial of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson for covering up sexual abuse has been delayed due to concerns over the 67-year-old’s health, but a NSW court has been told he could be “malingering”.
Wilson, the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sex assault, was scheduled to appear in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday but was a no-show amid fears he may be suffering Alzheimer’s disease and might not be fit to stand trial.
He was to appear over allegations he concealed information about a potential sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in 1971 by the now-dead pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region.
But Adelaide neurologist Associate Professor Andrew Lee told the court he believes Wilson is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is having cognitive difficulties.
Dr Lee, giving evidence over the phone, said the archbishop came to see him in his Adelaide office for the first time on November 17, less than a fortnight before his two-week hearing was scheduled to begin.
Wilson, who had been referred to Dr Lee by his legal team, told the neurologist he’d suffered a fall and hit his head on October 11.
Dr Lee said Wilson claimed he had lost consciousness after the fall and woke to find he was bleeding from the head.
Wilson said he went to hospital for several hours but no brain scans were conducted before he was discharged.
Dr Lee said Wilson complained of being light headed for several days after the fall and had difficulty walking on uneven ground.
Questioned by crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison, Dr Lee said he spoke with the archbishop for about 20 minutes during the November 17 consultation and carried out a number of tests which raised serious concerns about his cognitive ability.
Dr Lee said Wilson claimed not to know what 10 past 11 looked like on a clock and couldn’t think of 11 words containing the letter F in less than a minute.
Asked by the prosecutor if Wilson could have been malingering during these tests, Dr Lee agreed it was possible, which was why he believed the archbishop needed to be assessed further by a neuro-psychologist to determine if he was fit to stand trial.
Dr Lee said in his opinion Wilson was a genuine person and wasn’t trying to put something over him during the tests.
Mr Harrison then played a video featuring Wilson which was uploaded to YouTube on October 31 in which the archbishop discusses the future of the Catholic Church.
The prosecutor claimed it showed the archbishop was lucid and coherent.
Dr Lee agreed but said Wilson, who had a pacemaker fitted on November 22, stumbled over his words on a number of occasions which was uncharacteristic.
Dr Lee told the court he believed if Wilson was given the appropriate medication to improve his cognitive capacity there was a one in three chance he could return to normal in about three to six months.
Magistrate Caleb Franklin said the question of Wilson’s fitness to stand trial needed to be addressed.
He adjourned the case until Friday when it will be decided if the case proceeds next week.
The NSW Court of Appeal in June dismissed Wilson’s third attempt to have the proceedings against him quashed or permanently stayed.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson fails to front child sex abuse concealing trial
9 News www.9news.com
8:40pm Nov 28, 2017
By Kim Robertson • Court Reporter
South Australia’s Catholic Archbishop has cited health reasons for his decision to not front landmark criminal proceedings in Newcastle.
Philip Wilson, 67, is the world’s most senior clergyman to be charged with covering up child sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
Today was the first time in the case’s two-and-a-half year history that the Archbishop was compelled to appear in court. But his defence team told the magistrate he couldn’t fly to Newcastle until Thursday at the earliest due to a pacemaker he had inserted in his heart six days ago.
The future of the case is now uncertain after the Archbishop’s lawyer, Stephen Odgers SC, tendered medical evidence to the court that he says raises “serious concerns” over his fitness to stand trial.
His Grace Philip Wilson failed to front Newcastle Local Court today despite being compelled to do so (AAP)The court heard Archbishop Wilson’s brain scans have revealed a “diminished cognitive function” and it could be up to six months before medication takes effect.
“He’s not in a fit state to give evidence at this time… it’s beyond anyone’s control,” the barrister told the Newcastle Local Court.
“He’s been acting on medical advice at all times,” he told reporters outside.
Prosecutors today expressed frustration by the delay telling the court victims and witnesses are “highly anxious” to have the matter dealt with.
The adjournment comes after the former priest tried and failed three times to have the charge thrown out.
He previously pleaded not guilty to concealing the abuse of convicted pedophile priest Jim Fletcher, who died in prison in 2006.
Archbishop Wilson’s barrister, Stephen Odgers SC (AAP)Philip Wilson was a parish priest in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese at the time of Fletcher’s offending in the 1970s.
He was also the pedophile’s colleague and housemate.
It is alleged Archbishop Wilson saw the 10-year-old victim coming and going from the Maitland house, where he suffered abuse in Fletcher’s bedroom after school.
Prosecutors allege Archbishop Wilson failed to report the allegations because he wanted to protect the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Wilson returned to his post in January last year after taking leave when he was charged in March 2015.
He faces a maximum two years jail if convicted of the charge laid by NSW Police Strike Force Lantle.
The strike force was formed to investigate sexual abuse allegations.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson misses trial opening after having pacemaker installed, court hears
November 28, 2017 12:35am
Andrew Hough, In Newcastle, The Advertiser
SOUTH Australia’s Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson has been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, on the eve of his landmark trial for allegedly concealing child sex abuse.
The Archbishop of Adelaide, 67, was due to begin the trial on Tuesday at Newcastle Local Court, charged with covering up sex abuse within the Catholic Church but he did not appear because of health problems, the court heard.
On Tuesday morning, the court heard he had a pacemaker installed last week amid concerns about his ailing health and that there are worries about his “cognitive capacities
Then in the afternoon, the court was told the Archbishop had been diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and has been prescribed medication that could help him return to normal levels within six months.
The court also heard the Archbishop had a fall on October 11 and was taken to Wakefield private hospital.
Despite complaining he had blacked out and had a gash on his head, hospital doctors did not undertake tests.
Later, leading Adelaide neurologist Associate Professor Andrew Lee told the court via phone link that he then underwent tests with the church leader.
Testing showed that his “memory part of the human brain is not working properly”.
“That part of the Archbishop’s brain is not working properly and it is abnormally so,” Prof Lee said.
Catholic diocese staff have been this afternoon informed of the Archbishop’s diagnosis.
No decision has been made about his position but The Advertiser understands he is not stepping down. He is on personal leave while the trial continues.
In a rare prosecution, Archbishop Wilson is accused of concealing sexual abuse by a local paedophile priest in the mid-1970s.
The archbishop, the highest-ranking Catholic Church official in the Australia to be charged with such crimes, has taken personal leave while he “vigorously” defends the case.
He denies one charge of concealing a serious indictable offence.
He faces a maximum two years in jail if convicted of the charge laid by NSW police Strike Force Lantle, which was formed to investigate sexual abuse allegations.
The Archbishop failed to attend the first day of his scheduled trial, which the court heard was because of his ongoing medical issues.
He could appear at Newcastle on Thursday at the earliest.
Stephen Odgers SC, defending, told the court that while there was no application to have the case quashed due to his medical fitness, doctors had raised concerns about his ongoing health.
Mr Odgers said that “concerns have now been raised about the defendant’s cognitive capacities”.
A frustrated prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the court that while he did not oppose a brief adjournment he raised concerns about the case’s timetable.
The court heard prosecutors will call 16 witnesses — 14 of those civilians.
Defence will call at least four. None of the abuse victims can be named for legal reasons.
Newcastle Magistrate Caleb Franklin will rule later on Tuesday.
Outside court Mr Odgers said his client was “acting on medical advice”.
Asked if it was a delaying tactic he replied: “I am not going to answer silly questions.”
He also refused to say whether it was a coincidence.
Monsignor David Cappo, the former head of the state’s social inclusion unit and senior Catholic Church officials, who was at the hearing also would not answer questions.
The Archbishop had no comment ahead of Tuesday’s opening but in a note to the Adelaide community last week, Vicar General Father Philip Marshall said: “From the outset the Archbishop has … maintained his innocence”.
“I know it will be of paramount importance to him that we offer our prayers to all people involved in, or affected by, this case.”
Prosecutors will allege that while he was a 25-year-old junior priest in 1976, the Archbishop concealed information about a sex assault of a then 10 year-old boy, five years earlier at Maitland, near Newcastle.
The attacker, James Patrick Fletcher, was Archbishop Wilson’s then-flatmate in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is expected to give evidence, as are several church clergy and other members.
Police allege the Archbishop failed to report the abuse between 2004 and 2006 when Fletcher, 65, known as Jim, died in prison while serving a 10-year jail term for abusing an altar boy.
The Archbishop has failed to have the case quashed on three separate occasions before the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed the bid.
Adelaide Archbishop Phillip Wilson funding own defence against charge of concealing child sex abuse
The Herald Sun
July 2, 2017 8:00am
Josephine Lim, Ellen Whinnett, News Corp Australia Network
THE Catholic Church will not pay legal fees for Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson as he prepares to face a two-week hearing this year on a charge of concealing child sex abuse.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide has confirmed that Wilson, who was charged in March 2015, was paying his own bills.
He stands accused of failing to give police information about the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in 1971 by the now-dead paedophile priest James Fletcher in Maitland, NSW.
Wilson has pleaded not guilty to the charge.
His lawyers made three unsuccessful attempts in the Local Court, NSW Supreme Court and NSW Court of Appeal to have the charge quashed or permanently stayed.
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been charged with concealing child sex abuse and will face a Newcastle court in November.
Last Friday, a two-week trial for the matter was set down for late November in the Newcastle Local Court.
A spokeswoman for the archbishop also confirmed he will take several weeks away from his public duties before the trial commences.
Wilson previously took leave from his Adelaide role in 2015 when the charge was first brought against him but he returned to his post in early 2016.
Barrister Bret Walker SC, who represented Kevin Rudd in 2014, took over representation for Wilson last year from Ian Temby QC, who charges up to $1000 an hour.
The Sunday Mail revealed Cardinal George Pell, who was last week charged with historic sexual offences, will not receive funds from the Vatican for his legal team and transport to Australia. This prompted his supporters to set up a fund for his legal bills.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce described court proceedings against Cardinal Pell as “all very sad”.
Mr Joyce made the comment after a meeting with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the highest-ranked Vatican figure after the Pope.
The meeting, scheduled months ago, came three days after Cardinal Pell, 76, was charged by Victoria Police.
Cardinal George Pell, who is facing multiple counts of sexual abuse that officials allege occurred years ago. Picture: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini, File
Mr Joyce, himself a committed Catholic, confirmed Cardinal Pell had come up in conversation with Cardinal Parolin.
He said he could not say much about the issue because it was before the court.
“It would have been very peculiar if it had not come up,” he said.
“It’s all very sad this is happening … I will give Cardinal Pell the same (entitlement) I would give anyone, innocent until proven guilty.
“We will let the courts follow their process.”