Appeals court throws out conviction of former Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson
A New South Wales appellate court has overturned the conviction of the former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide on charges he covered up clergy sexual abuse of children
On 6 Dec 2018 Judge Roy Ellis ruled there had been insufficient evidence to convict Msgr. Philip Wilson in May. The Newcastle District Court had found Archbishop Wilson guilty of having not taken action against a priest accused of child abuse. The court found him guilty of ignoring the sexual abuse of two altar boys in the 1970s by a priest subsequently jailed in 2004 for child molestation. The Newcastle Court heard evidence one of the victims had told Archbishop Wilson of the abuse in a church confessional in 1976. However Judge Ellis ruled that he could not be certain the conversation had ever taken place.
“There is no proper basis upon which I can rely to reject the evidence of the appellant,” Judge Roy Ellis said, according to wire service reports.
After his conviction, Archbishop Wilson (68) resigned as archbishop of Adelaide and had been serving a 12-month home detention sentence. After serving as a parish priest in New South Wales, Msgr Wilson was appointed Bishop of Wollongong in 1996 and Archbishop of Adelaide in 2001.
The archdiocese of Adelaide welcomed the court ruling. “We now need to consider the ramifications of this outcome,” said administrator delegate, Father Philip Marshall.
Over the past five years the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse examined more than 15,000 allegations of sexual misconduct and heard testimony from around 8,000 survivors of abuse committed by church workers, clergy, teachers, scout masters and other institutional youth workers. In October Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered an apology to Parliament over the government’s inaction.
“Today, as a nation, we confront our failure to listen, to believe and to provide justice. Again, today, we say sorry. To the children we failed, sorry. To the parents whose trust was betrayed and who have struggled to pick up the pieces, sorry.”
“As a nation, we failed them, we forsook them, and that will always be our shame,” the prime minister said