Ex-Australian archbishop avoids jail for concealing child abuse
A former Australian archbishop convicted of concealing abuse by a notorious paedophile priest in the 1970s was spared jail Tuesday, with a court ruling he can serve his sentence in home detention.
Philip Wilson became one of the highest-ranked church officials convicted of covering up child sex abuse when he was found guilty in May of concealing crimes by priest Jim Fletcher in the Hunter region of New South Wales state.
The Newcastle Local Court sentenced the 67-year-old to 12 months’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of six months, but also ordered that he be assessed to serve it at home.
Since then he has been on bail and on Tuesday magistrate Robert Stone decided he will not have to spend time behind bars, with local media reporting from the court that his age, mental and physical condition were taken into account.
As part of his home detention, at an undisclosed location, Wilson will have to wear a tracking device, the Newcastle Herald said.
Wilson resigned as Archbishop of Adelaide last month after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on the Vatican to sack him.
He has long denied the charges and initially resisted calls to quit pending an appeal against his conviction.
Stone found him guilty of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, concluding his primary motive was to protect the church.
During sentencing Stone added that “there is no remorse or contrition showed by the offender”.
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 focused 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.
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