Australian archbishop sentenced to 12 months for child sex abuse cover-up

Philip Wilson is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse

Philip Wilson is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sexual abuse

An Australian Catholic archbishop has been given a maximum sentence of 12 months in detention after he was found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse in the 1970s.

Stone adjourned the decision on the request for Wilson's home detention to August.

Anthea Halpin, whose documents about another Hunter child sex offender priest, Denis McAlinden, were the starting point for a police investigation that eventually led to Wilson being charged, said Wilson should have resigned when he was convicted in May, and the Pope should have acted then.

Wilson, who has shown early stages of Alzerimers, will serve a six-month non-parole period under the watchful eye of a supervising officer from his home, Herald Sun reported.

Newcastle Magistrate Robert Stone handed down the sentence on Tuesday, saying Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson had shown "no remorse or contrition" for covering up for Father Jim Fletcher, who was convicted on nine counts of abuse of boys in 2004.

Wilson was convicted in May of not disclosing to police abuse by another priest, James Fletcher, after being told about it in 1976 by two victims, including an altar boy who told him inside the confessional.

Fletcher was arrested on unrelated child abuse charges in 2004 and died in prison of a stroke in 2006 while serving an nearly eight-year sentence.

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The extent of child sexual abuse and its concealment "affects the fabric of our society and we are all the poorer for what has occurred", Mr Stone said.

The Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson leaves Newcastle Local Court, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Bill Wright said Wilson as a bishop had taken vigorous action against child abusers. Fletcher died in jail in 2006.

"By concealing abuse it is demonstrating you are placing the needs of the perpetrator above the child", he added. "Survivors have been vital in helping us learn the lesson of our shameful history of abuse and concealment, which was laid bare in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and state inquiries, including the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry" in Newcastle in 2013.

Peter Gogarty, another victim of Fletcher, said Wilson's sentence could open the floodgates around the world and empower more victims to speak up. Of those who were abused in religious institutions, 62 per cent were Catholics. Some lawyers said they expect many more clerics to be charged in Australia as a result of Wilson's test case. "We have done something in Australia which no one else has been able to manage".

Last year, Australia completed a five-year government-appointed inquiry into child sex abuse in churches and other institutions, amid allegations worldwide that churches had protected pedophile priests by moving them from parish to parish.

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