Archbishop Wilson to be sentenced for alleged sex abuse cover-up

The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court,Tuesday

The Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court,Tuesday

The Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson was found guilty in May of covering-up abuse by a former priest in New South Wales during the 1970s.

'There is no remorse or contrition shown by the offender, ' Newcastle Court Magistrate Robert Stone said in sentencing remarks.

Stone found the 67-year-old cleric guilty in May in the Newcastle Local Court of failing to report to police the repeated abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest named James Fletcher in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney during the 1970s. Bishop O'Kelly, 76, is not expected to succeed Archbishop Wilson, especially since he has already surpassed the age at which bishops customarily submit a resignation letter to the pope. "My personal view is that is probably letting him off a little bit too lightly", he told reporters outside court.

The 67-year-old will be eligible for parole after six months, emailed court documents show.

There will be a hearing on August 14 to determine whether home detention is appropriate for Wilson and where he could stay, with his sister's house raised as one option.

"One way or the other, the Archbishop has been convicted of concealing the abuse of children", Mr Gogarty said.

"The whole of the community is devastated in so many ways by the decades of abuse and its concealment, by the people they trusted and respected", he said.

But Wilson will not immediately go into custody.

But earlier he told the Adelaide Advertiser that "irrespective of the sentencing, the victory was had" in May when Wilson was convicted.

Wilson was given 12 months in jail for the crime of failing to tell police that, when he was a junior priest in 1976 in East Maitland, a young altar boy had asked him for help after being sexually abused by his parish priest.

"There is much more at stake than just a slap on the wrist or some public embarrassment", he said.

Wilson's lawyer said he suffered from a range of conditions including a potential diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, and shouldn't be put in detention.

Peter Gogarty, another victim of Fletcher, said Wilson's sentence could open the floodgates around the world and empower more victims to speak up.

Fletcher was convicted of nine child sexual abuse charges in 2004, and died in jail two years later.

Like elsewhere in the world, Australia has been plagued by accusations that the Catholic Church ignored and covered up child abuse.

Tens of thousands of children had been abused in various Australian institutions, including the Catholic Church over the last 90 years, the commission estimated.

Last month, prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the magistrate that Wilson must be jailed to send a message that such institutional cover-ups will no longer be tolerated. Five years later he became the Archbishop of Adelaide.

"We should be very aware of the impact on survivors, their families and all those who love them", the archdiocese's apostolic administrator said.

The landmark report estimated that tens of thousands of children had been abused in Australian churches, youth groups, care homes and schools, in what the commission described as a "national tragedy".

Children had been irreparably harmed by institutional child sex abuse, and parents of simple faith had been treated with total indifference and contempt, the magistrate said.

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