ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Wilson's legal team has moved to have the case against him dismissed, telling a magistrate the evidence in his landmark hearing is incapable of convicting him.
At the conclusion of the prosecution case in Newcastle Local Court on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilson's barrister, Stephen Odgers, SC, made a 'no case to answer', or no prima facie case, application and told Magistrate Robert Stone the prosecution had not proven the Archbishop had remembered or believed allegations of sexual abuse against another priest even if they were told to him in 1976.
Mr Odgers had foreshadowed making the application on Monday, when the two-week hearing into allegations Archbishop Wilson had concealed child sexual abuse allegations against Hunter priest Jim Fletcher resumed after a four-month break.
But on Tuesday, Mr Odgers revealed his “fallback” position: that if Mr Stone did find the Archbishop had a case to answer, he could then give himself a Prasad direction, which is a finding of not guilty at the conclusion of the prosecution case due to insufficient evidence to justify a conviction.
Archbishop Wilson had failed three times, including an application to the NSW Supreme Court, to have the charge against him dismissed before the hearing began. The defence application came as Mr Stone rejected another defence application to call two witnesses, who they said provided evidence that Archbishop Wilson had a tendency to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the relevant authorities.
Mr Stone found the evidence, statements from two people who had dealings with Archbishop Wilson during his time at Wollongong and Adelaide, didn’t have “significant probative value” because it did nothing to assist Mr Stone in understanding what the Archbishop’s personal belief was in relation to reporting matters of child sexual abuse.
Archbishop Wilson, 67, has pleaded not guilty to failing to advise police between April, 2004 and January, 2006 that Father Fletcher indecently and sexually assaulted Peter Creigh when he was 10 years old in 1971.
Mr Creigh gave evidence at the hearing in December, telling Mr Stone he went to see Wilson in a room at the back of the presbytery of a Hunter region church in early 1976 to tell him about what Fletcher had done to him five years earlier.
The prosecution must not only prove that Mr Creigh told Archbishop Wilson, then a junior Maitland-Newcastle priest, about the sexual abuse in 1976, but that Archbishop Wilson remembered it and had a belief that the allegations were true between 2004 and 2006, after Fletcher had been charged with child sex offences and before his death in jail.