Catholic Archbishop Philip Wilson seeks to have charge of hiding child sex abuse thrown out
By Karl Hoerr, May 18, 2017, ABC News Australia
Lawyers for Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, accused of concealing child sex abuse in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, have fronted court again for their third attempt to stop the case against him from going ahead.
Wilson, who has retained his position amid the criminal proceedings, is accused of failing to pass onto police information he had between 2004 and 2006 that might have helped convict Father Jim Fletcher.
It is alleged a boy told the senior clergyman, he had been indecently assaulted by Father Fletcher several years earlier.
Prosecutors claim Wilson came to believe the allegation decades later, after learning of other cases.
Father Fletcher died in prison in 2006.
Wilson's barrister, Bret Walker SC, told the Court of Appeal in Sydney today that the charge was invalid.
It is Wilson's third attempt to permanently stay the proceedings.
Two separate applications were previously rejected by a magistrate and a Supreme Court judge.
Timing of assault at centre of lawyers' arguments
In his written submissions to the hearing, Mr Walker argued that the charge of concealment, required the crime that was allegedly concealed, to be a "serious indictable offence", or at least five years imprisonment.
He said in the 1970s when the actual indecent assault occurred, the crime carried a maximum penalty of five years "penal servitude", or hard labour, not imprisonment.
Mr Walker told the court according to the definition at the time, the indecent assault Wilson was accused of concealing did not require imprisonment and therefore "does not fall within the definition of a seriously indictable offence".
Mr Walker said Justice Monika Schmidt, in her October 2016 decision, was wrong to conclude that it was a "serious indictable offence".
Justice Schmidt did not rely on the definition of indecent assault at the time Father Fletcher's crime was committed.
Instead, she had relied on the definition of indecent assault, relevant between 2004 to 2006, when Wilson was accused of concealing the crime.
That definition, also relevant today, requires that someone charged with indecent assault face a maximum five years jail, thereby — by today's standards — making it an serious indictable offence.
Director of Public Prosecutions Lloyd Babb SC said Justice Schmidt had "correctly determined that the charge is valid".
The three appeal court judges hearing the case, including Chief Justice Tom Bathurst, reserved their decision.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.