HFORMER Hunter priest Archbishop Philip Wilson will argue for a permanent halt to criminal proceedings against him for allegedly concealing the sexual assault of a child by a fellow priest.
The most senior Catholic clergyman in the world to be charged with a conceal offence will put his case in December for a permanent stay, after his lawyer Simon Buchen flagged the move in Newcastle Local Court on Friday.
The Adelaide Archbishop has previously pleaded not guilty to concealing the sexual abuse of a 10-year-old boy by the late priest Jim Fletcher in the early 1970s when both men were in the Maitland area.
In a statement after he was charged in March by Strikeforce Lantle police based in Newcastle, the archbishop said he would ‘‘vigorously defend’’ the allegations against him.
The charge was reported by media around the world.
Mr Buchen told the court on Friday that the archbishop would also file an application seeking a court attendance notice be quashed.
The court heard no witnesses would be called for the one-day hearing in December where the archbishop’s lawyers and lawyers for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will argue the permanent stay application.
Author, lawyer and former trainee priest Kieran Tapsell, whose book Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse considers the interplay of secular and church law, said the general principle was that permanent stays were not lightly granted.
‘‘Delay by itself is not sufficient,’’ Mr Tapsell said.
‘‘The accused has to demonstrate that his defence has been so prejudiced by the delay to the extent that a fair trial is not possible.
‘‘This might be shown by the death of significant witnesses or the destruction of documents over time.’’
In the High Court case of Jago in 1989 Justice William Deane outlined five main heads of considerations when deciding permanent stay applications.
They were the length of the delay; reasons to explain or justify the delay; the accused’s responsibility for and past attitude to the delay; proven or likely prejudice to the accused and the public interest in the conviction of those guilty of crime.
Hunter man Peter Gogarty, a victim of Fletcher who is not a witness in the case against Archbishop Wilson, said he was disappointed but not surprised that Wilson had asked for a permanent stay.
Mr Gogarty said he believed a trial was necessary.
‘‘The only way for this matter to be settled is for it to go to a trial for a public airing of the allegations and for Archbishop Wilson to be given the opportunity to defend himself,’’ Mr Gogarty said.
‘‘If there’s a permanent stay without the allegations being heard there will always be questions about did he, or didn’t he, know.’’