Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson Guilty Of Concealing Child Abuse
Wilson was found guilty of covering up abuse in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s.
Adelaide Catholic archbishop Philip Wilson has been found guilty of concealing child abuse.
Wilson was found guilty in a NSW court on Tuesday of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, relating to the abuse of four boys in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s.
In a magistrate-only trial at Newcastle Local Court, Wilson was found guilty of charges relating to the abuse of four boys by priest James Fletcher, his former housemate.
He is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with the cover-up of child abuse, and now faces the prospect of two years jail.
During the trial, Wilson was accused by prosecutors of being "part of an entrenched, toxic culture" in the church.
Prosecutors claimed he failed to inform authorities of Fletcher's actions, despite being made aware of them as early as the 1970s. Peter Aidan Creigh, one of Fletcher's victims, told the hearing that he informed Wilson -- who was then a junior priest in Maitland, NSW -- that he was abused by Fletcher in the 1970s while an altar boy.
Wilson's legal team did not deny that Fletcher had committed abuse, but argued that Wilson was not informed of, or did not remember, the incidents.
The defence had attempted to have the trial dismissed several times, citing his diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer's disease.
In 2005, Fletcher was convicted of the abuse of one altar boy and jailed for 10 years. He died in prison in 2006.
In a statement, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference spruiked its "stronger programs" to combat sexual abuse.
"Archbishop Philip Wilson has today been found guilty of failing to inform police about allegations of child sexual abuse. Archbishop Wilson maintained his innocence throughout this long judicial process. It is not yet clear if he will appeal the verdict," the ACBC said.
"The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of child sexual abuse and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults. The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the Church and its ministries."