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No jail for disgraced Australian archbishop found guilty of covering up child sex abuse

Philip Wilson resigned last month after becoming one of the highest-ranked officials convicted of covering up abuse.

Former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle Local Court, in Newcastle, Australia, after a post-sentence decision today.
Former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson arrives at Newcastle Local Court, in Newcastle, Australia, after a post-sentence decision today.
Image: Darren Pateman/AP

A FORMER AUSTRALIAN archbishop who was convicted of concealing abuse by a notorious paedophile priest in the 1970s has avoided jail.

In May, Philip Wilson became one of the highest-ranked church officials convicted of covering up abuse when he was found guilty of concealing crimes by priest Jim Fletcher in New South Wales.

He resigned as Archbishop of Adelaide last month, soon after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on the Vatican to sack him.

He remains an ordained bishop but has no official role.

He has long denied the charges and initially resisted calls to quit pending an appeal against his conviction.

Today, a local court sentenced the 67-year-old to 12 months’ detention, with a non-parole period of six months, but also ordered that he should be assessed to serve his sentence at home.

Taking Wilson’s age and prior good record taken into account, magistrate Robert Stone decided that he would not be required to spend time behind bars, although he will have to wear a tracking device.

Stone also found Wilson guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, concluding his primary motive was to protect the church, and said that the accused showed “no remorse or contrition” for his actions.

Australia Church Abuse Abuse victim Peter Gogarty speaks to the media after former Archbishop Philip Wilson attended Local Court, in Newcastle, Australia, for a post-sentence decision Source: Darren Pateman/AP

Wilson remained silent as he left the court, and was mobbed by abuse survivors and members of the media outside.

Peter Gogarty, one of Fletcher’s victims, asked Wilson to apologise, saying: “Any words for me, Philip? Philip will you say sorry for what you have done to me and other child sex abuse survivors?”

Another Fletcher victim, Daniel Feenan, also criticised Wilson for failing to say sorry. “I’d like to see him show some type of remorse and I’d like to see him apologise,” he told local newspaper the Newcastle Herald.

Wilson’s conviction comes amid a host of accusations that the Catholic Church ignored and covered up child abuse in Australia, charges that have also plagued other countries.

There was no dispute during the trial that Fletcher, who is now dead, sexually abused an altar boy, with the hearing focusing on whether Wilson, then a junior priest, was told about it.

Wilson served as a priest in New South Wales, before Pope John Paul II appointed him Bishop of Wollongong in 1996. Five years later he became the Archbishop of Adelaide.

- © AFP, 2018

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