HUNTER abuse survivor Peter Gogarty has backed dramatic scenes outside Newcastle Courthouse on Tuesday by challenging NSW police and prosecutors to charge more institutional leaders with concealing child sexual abuse to avoid Archbishop Philip Wilson being “scapegoated”.
Mr Gogarty queried whether limited resources explained why only one institutional leader has been charged and convicted with concealing child sex crimes despite five years of evidence to the child abuse royal commission about widespread reporting failures across a large number of Australian institutions.
“If Wilson’s matter proves to be a one-off in terms of holding those who protected child sex offenders to account then Wilson can rightly argue his prosecution has been something of a scapegoating exercise, and it shouldn’t be that way,” Mr Gogarty said.
He said he had no regrets about challenging Wilson to speak, say sorry and show contrition as the archbishop walked to a waiting car on Tuesday to start the first day of six months of home detention after he was convicted of failing to report child sex allegations about Hunter priest Jim Fletcher to police.
Mr Gogarty was sexually abused by Fletcher from the age of 11.
“I walked out of the court and there was (Fletcher abuse victim) Daniel Feenan on his own talking to the media while a huge entourage protected Philip Wilson from close scrutiny as he headed for his car,” he said.
“All he had to do was stop, show a bit of genuine Christian compassion and have the courage to acknowledge he should have done something when he could have. But he said nothing.”
Mr Gogarty challenged a Wilson supporter who questioned why Mr Gogarty hadn’t spoken out 40 years ago about being sexually abused by Fletcher.
When Mr Gogarty called for the man to speak to him “on camera, right now, you and me”, the Wilson supporter said “I haven’t got the time for rubbish like you, mate.”
In response Mr Gogarty vowed to continue being a thorn in the church’s side after successfully campaigning for Wilson’s resignation following his conviction on May 22.
During a very brief hearing on Tuesday Newcastle Local Court magistrate Robert Stone said Wilson had been assessed as suitable to serve his 12-month jail sentence as home detention, with a minimum term of six months wearing an ankle bracelet confined to a NSW location. At an earlier hearing Mr Stone was told Wilson’s sister’s Central Coast home was a likely location.
I haven't got the time for rubbish like you, mate.Wilson supporter to Peter Gogarty outside Newcastle Courthouse
Ian Temby, QC, for Wilson, told Mr Stone the archbishop would lodge an appeal against his conviction on Tuesday, but would not be applying for bail until the appeal is heard and had elected to start his sentence.
Mr Gogarty said he hoped Wilson would not go ahead with the appeal.
“I hope he’ll reconsider, take his six months’ home detention at his sister’s place and then he, and the rest of us, can get on with our lives.
“He continues to protest his innocence but I hope he thinks this through and takes his medicine.”
Mr Gogarty said he spoke because of the “pent-up frustration” that had been building for many years against the Catholic Church and its leaders because of the tragedy of child sexual abuse in the Hunter that continued to take its toll.
In an emotional outpouring after Wilson left the court on Tuesday Mr Gogarty spoke of Hunter priest Glen Walsh who “took his own life because of the stress” of giving evidence in the Wilson trial, and Fletcher victim Peter Creigh who has been hospitalised and had heart surgery since Wilson was convicted in May.
“There are people in the church who say ‘We’ve learnt our lesson from the royal commission, now you can trust us. And then we get what we saw outside the court on Tuesday,” Mr Gogarty said.
While you’re with us, did you know The Herald is now offering breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up-to-date with all the local news - sign up here.