Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide sentenced to 12 months for covering up crimes of pedophile priest

As reported by Vatican Insider, July 4, 2018:

ROME - Archbishop Philip Wilson of Adelaide might be able to avoid imprisonment after the Newcastle tribunal, north of Sydney, will evaluate his eligibility for 12-month home detention. The decision will be taken on 14 August. The Prelate will be eligible for parole after serving six months.

Wilson, 67, who suspended himself but did not resign as Archbishop of Adelaide and Vice President of the Australian Bishops' Conference, was sentenced for covering up serious crimes - the sexual abuse of children committed by priest James Fletcher in the 1970s, when both served in the diocese of Maitland, near Newcastle. Fletcher died in prison at the age of 65 in 2006, one year after being sentenced to almost eight years for nine paedophile crimes committed between 1989 and 1991.

"The whole community is devastated in so many ways by decades of abuse and its concealment," magistrate Robert Stone said over pedophile abuse within institutions, in his sentencing. Given the seriousness of the offence and the need for general deterrence, only a custodial sentence can be imposed, whereas a suspension of the sentence would not correspond to this need, he said. The only option is therefore to serve a sentence in prison or at home. Given the age, mental and physical condition of the defendant and the absence of any criminal record, also 12 months of home detention would be an appropriate punishment.

During the trial, the prosecution insisted on a custodial sentence for "deterrence" and "reporting" reasons, in such a high-profile case. Public prosecutor Gareth Harrison had asked the court for an appropriate verdict for the "breach of trust" towards the vulnerable minor who - along with another altar boy - had approached Wilson in 1976 accusing Fletcher, the priest. "A 15-year-old boy had turned to him for help, and the defendant lied in court about his knowledge of allegations of abuse? The root of each of those lies is the unflinching loyalty to the Catholic church and protecting it at all costs," Harrison said.

Ian Temby, the prelate's defender, in turn, had asked to spare him prison time because of his poor state of health and because his safety would be at risk behind bars. And he had presented reports from various doctors with details of his medical conditions including diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart problems, saying that in prison his health would worsen, while his personal safety would be at risk.

"The Archbishop has not been convicted of any sexual offenses and there are no indications that he has been involved in any of the crimes committed by Fletcher, but could be seen by the prison inmates as a pedophile and thus exposed to assault by other detainees," lawyer Temby said.

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