ADELAIDE Archbishop Philip Edward Wilson should be convicted of failing to report child sexual abuse to police, but spared a jail term due to his ailing mental health and the risk he could be assaulted behind bars, Newcastle Local Court has heard.
Wilson, who stood aside, but refused to resign from his position after sensationally being found guilty in May following a landmark eight-day hearing, looked forlorn and hung his head as his barrister, Ian Temby, QC, urged Magistrate Robert Stone to place him on a good behaviour bond on Tuesday.
“At the outset, we'll be urging upon Your Honour that an adequate disposition is a recorded conviction and imposition of a bond,” Mr Temby said.
“And we’ll be submitting that no prison sentence is called for.”
Mr Temby handed up a raft of character references, which he said showed Archbishop Wilson was a “true leader of the church” and a trailblazer in terms of introducing police checks and compliance systems.
“We'll be developing a case that he is not just a man who has no prior convictions,” Mr Temby said.
“But he is in fact a man of prior positive good character, with particular reference to the general field of prevention of child sexual abuse and the protection of children.”
Mr Temby also produced a number of medical reports, which detailed the risk that the Archbishop Wilson would be assaulted in jail or that his mental health would deteriorate.
“These considerations would impact substantially on the Archbishop's health and well-being and may even threaten his survival,” Mr Temby said when referring to one of the medical reports.
The 67-year-old had been put on notice after Mr Stone’s verdict that the prosecution would be pressing for a jail term, with Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison submitting that the need for denunciation and general deterrence loomed large in such a high-profile case.
And on Tuesday, Mr Harrison provided Mr Stone with statistics, which he said showed that 16 per cent of offenders convicted of concealing a serious indictable offence received a jail term.
Mr Stone said he was unable to sentence Archbishop Wilson on Tuesday and adjourned the matter until July 3 to give his decision.
He also questioned whether Archbishop Wilson could be placed on an intensive corrections order (ICO), a form of custodial sentence served in the community, given he resides outside of NSW.
Wilson was found guilty of failing to report allegations of child sexual abuse against paedophile priest Father Jim Fletcher, who died in jail in 2006.
Peter Creigh, a former altar boy, who bravely waived his right to a non-publication order on his name, had told the hearing that in 1976 he told Archbishop Wilson, then a junior priest at St Joseph’s Church, East Maitland, that Father Fletcher had subjected him to acts of punishment and sexual abuse about five years earlier.
There was no dispute during the hearing that Fletcher, a notorious paedophile, had sexually abused the then 10-year-old Mr Creigh.
Instead, the hearing focused on whether the conversation between Mr Creigh and Archbishop Wilson took place and whether the Archbishop remembered the allegation and believed it was true between 2004 and 2006.
Archbishop Wilson took the stand in April and said he didn't remember the conversation at the heart of the hearing and doubted it ever took place because he wouldn’t have forgotten such “graphic” claims.
It was a circumstantial case and the prosecution had to overcome a number of significant hurdles in their bid to prove Archbishop Wilson concealed the sexual abuse allegations against Fletcher.
Not only did Mr Harrison have to prove that Mr Creigh told Archbishop Wilson 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.
They also had to prove that Archbishop Wilson knew or believed he had information which might be of assistance in securing the prosecution of Fletcher for the sexual abuse offences against Mr Creigh.
Ultimately, Mr Stone believed Mr Creigh and the other prosecution witnesses, Hunter parishioners who went to Wilson for guidance or support and were fobbed off or lied to, over the Archbishop.
Each piece of circumstantial evidence was a “strand in a cable”, Mr Stone said, twisted and twined together to make an unbreakable case against Archbishop Wilson.
The Archbishop’s legal team had tried four times to have the case against him thrown out before he took the stand in April.
He has not publicly indicated whether or not he is going to appeal Mr Stone’s judgement.
More to come.
HOW IT HAPPENED
- TRIAL STARTS ON CHARGE HEARD AROUND THE WORLD
- I PLAN TO STAY ON: ARCHBISHOP WILSON
- WILSON ALLEGEDLY TELLS BOY HE SHOULD BE ASHAMED FOR LYING
- MOTHER PHONED WILSON
- ARCHBISHOP ‘SHOCKED’ BY SEXUAL ABUSE
- WILSON’S HEARING SET TO CONTINUE
- ARCHBISHOP WANTS ABUSE CASE THROWN OUT
- DEFENCE PUSH FOR ACQUITTAL
- MAGISTRATE REJECTS ARCHBISHOP’S ‘GOOD TENDENCY’ APPLICATION
- ARCHBISHOP LIVED WITH PAEDOPHILE PRIEST
- ‘I DON’T REMEMBER’: ARCHBISHOP WILSON
- EVASIVE ARCHBISHOP ‘CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF’
- POLICE TO EXAMINE THREATS TO CHILD SEX ABUSE VICTIM
- WILSON HEARING NEARING THE END
- WILSON FOUND GUILTY OF COVERING UP CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
- CATHOLIC COVER-UP COULD LAND ARCHBISHOP IN JAIL
- WILSON STANDS ASIDE AS ARCHBISHOP
- WHEN THE VERDICT CAME DOWN THERE WAS A MOMENT OF SILENCE AND THEN THEY WEPT
- WILSON IS ‘A CONVICTED CRIMINAL IN DENIAL’: VICTIMS
- ARCHBISHOP WILSON’S SPECTACULAR OWN GOAL