Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, has today been sentenced in relation to concealing child sex crimes by Magistrate Robert Stone in the Newcastle Local Court in Australia. However, this sentence will not include jail time according to News.com.au. Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months for “failing to report to police the historical indecent assault of two altar boys.”
Archbishop Wilson was convicted in May of concealing abuse inflicted on altar boys at the hands of the pedophile priest, James Fletcher, in the 1970s, according to CNN. After the initial conviction was made, Archbishop Wilson stepped aside from his duties but is yet to resign from his position.
During today’s sentencing, Magistrate Robert Stone cited the severity of incidences such as sex abuse cover-ups and the impact it can have on victims as a reason behind his sentencing.
“I consider it a matter that should be regarded as serious. By concealing abuse it is demonstrating you are placing the needs of the perpetrator above the child.”
However, the court has decided, due to the archbishop’s failing health and age, a combined sentence of six months of home detention and six months of parole is more relevant than incarceration. During the sentencing hearing in June, Archbishop Wilson’s defense barrister, Ian Temby QC, said that Wilson “may not survive jail if his diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and ‘recurrent falls’ worsened amid the risk of violence from other inmates.”
Ian Temby also claimed that Wilson had no prior convictions and was a person of “previous good character.”
However, for those who survived sex abuse and suffered through known cover-ups of the events, this news was not what they wanted to hear.
“It’s basically a holiday,” one lady said after the sentencing in relation to the fact that Wilson will receive no jail time.
Prior to sentencing, abuse survivor Peter Creigh stated that he wanted Archbishop Philip Wilson locked up in order to send a clear message to others involved with cover-ups in relation to sex abuse within the church. According to News.com.au, Peter Creigh was repeatedly “abused by James Fletcher in the Hunter region during the 1970s.” When Creigh went to Wilson for help, nothing was done and the events were covered up.
Another abuse survivor of Fletcher’s, Peter Gogarty, was hopeful that the conviction would help others to step forward in relation to sex abuse within the church. He was hoping that with a sentence that involved incarceration for Archbishop Wilson, it would help to protect more children.
“There is much more at stake than just a slap on the wrist or some public embarrassment,” he said. “The deterrent effect of a custodial sentence will mean that children across the globe are safer.”
However, as CNN points out, even without jail time, Wilson’s conviction could have “far-reaching implications for other clergy members as the child sexual abuse scandal continues to hit the Catholic Church globally.”
There will be another hearing on August 14 to determine whether or not home detention will be suitable for Archbishop Wilson. If it is deemed he is not fit for home detention, the archbishop will wind up behind bars.
According to CNN, regardless of the outcome, this case is record-breaking in that Archbishop Wilson is the “highest ranked church official to ever be brought to account for what we know is a worldwide systematic abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse.”