The archbishop of the Australian city of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, was sentenced to a year in prison on Monday, two months after he was convicted of covering up child sexual abuse, The Australian reported. Wilson is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of such charges.
Wilson, however, may not spend much time in prison as he has to serve a non-parole period of six months, and can be assessed for home detention after that. “Given the criminality, the concealment involving child sexual abuse, and the need for a significant element of general deterrence to recognise the harm done to the community and to denounce his conduct, I am firmly of the opinion that a sentence of imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence,” said Judge Robert Stone.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment, but the judge said Wilson’s offence ranked in the “mid-range”.
Wilson has denied that one of the two altar boys abused by priest James Fletcher in the 1970s had told him about the crime. He was an assistant priest in Maitland at that time. The victim claimed that Wilson had accused of him of lying about the crimes and had called Fletcher “a good bloke”. Fletcher was found guilty in 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in prison in 2016.
An abuse survivor, Peter Gogarty, said he was a “little disappointed” with the sentence but said it was still significant that Wilson had been convicted. “My personal view is that is probably letting him off a little bit too lightly,” he told reporters outside court.
Peter Creigh, who was one of the two boys abused by Fletcher, could not attend the proceedings. His sister Mary Jane Bottom read a statement on his behalf. “Today is a very significant day for many reasons, including that Wilson has been convicted and sentenced to jail for 12 months,” Creigh said. “I still have a lot more to say about this whole scandal that has rocked the church and stunned the world.”
He thanked Detective Acting Inspector Jeff Little, the New South Wales Police Force officer in charge of the investigation, other investigators and the media for their help.