Phillip Wilson became the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of covering up sexual abuse after his trial in May. But today, that conviction was overturned as a judge in New South Wales said there were reasonable doubts about his guilt.
Wilson’s colleague, a paedophile priest named James Patrick Fletcher was convicted of 9 charges of child sexual abuse in 2004. Fletcher then died in jail in 2006.
Wilson has consistently denied knowing that Fletcher had abused children in the 1970’s. It was alleged that in 1976 victim Peter Creigh confided in Father Wilson that he had been sexually abused. Yet Father Wilson failed to report it to police when Fletcher was charged with other child sex offences 14 years ago.
Since his conviction in May, he had been serving a minimum of six months in home detention and has appeared via video link today after being excused from attending court due to the “media scrum.”
Wilson was “honest and consistent” according to judge
Before making his decision, Judge Ellis commented that the former archbishop was honest and consistent stating that: “There were very honest features of his evidence to provide a strong platform for him to be an honest witness, he did not attempt to blacken the name of Peter Creigh and allege he was a liar. He was clearly an intelligent and articulate witness.”
He said that The Crown had failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt and therefore overturned the conviction. At that point a Catholic clerical abuse survivor stood up in the courtroom and shouted: “Bullshit, that is a disgrace!” The Crown has indicated it will appeal the decision made by Judge Ellis today.
Meanwhile, The Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide has released a statement in response to the decision stating: “We welcome the conclusion of a process that has been long and painful to all concerned.”