A judge in Australia’s New South Wales on Wednesday quashed a former Catholic archbishop’s conviction for concealing child sexual abuse. In May, the Newcastle Local Court had convicted Philip Wilson, 68, for allegedly concealing priest James Fletcher’s sexual abuse of boys in the 1970s.
In an appeal, Judge Roy Ellis was asked to determine whether prosecutors proved beyond reasonable doubt that the former Adelaide archbishop failed to disclose sexual assault allegations against Fletcher between 2004 and 2006, when the police charged the priest with crimes against a boy in the 1990s, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. Fletcher was found guilty of nine counts of child sexual abuse. He died in prison in 2016.
In his judgement, Ellis said suspicion “is not a substitute for proof beyond reasonable doubt”, AP reported. The Newcastle court had heard the testimony of two men, who claimed that they told Wilson about the sexual assault in 1976. However, Wilson told the New South Wales court that he had no memory of such allegations.
The court also rejected a plea by New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb against the “leniency” of Wilson’s sentence pronounced by the Newcastle court – 12 months of home detention.