Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, did not appear in Newcastle Local Court today after having had a pacemaker fitted on November 22.
Defence barrister Stephen Odgers SC told the court Wilson had been advised by his doctors not to travel from Adelaide to Newcastle for at least a week.
Odgers said a neurologist had also expressed concerns about Wilson’s mental health and his ability to understand the case against him.
The case was briefly adjourned to give Magistrate Andrew Eckhold time to read submissions from Wilson’s lawyers.
Wilson has been accused of concealing information about the alleged sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy in 1971 by the now-dead pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region town of Maitland.
Wilson allegedly had information between 2004 and 2006 about Fletcher which might have helped to have the priest prosecuted.
The archbishop is the most senior Catholic official worldwide to be charged with the offence of concealing child sex assault.
Odgers told the court Wilson was “very keen” to participate in the trial despite his recent heart surgery and hoped to fly into Newcastle on Wednesday night to be ready to attend court the following day.
But the problem was that a neurologist who recently examined Wilson had raised serious concerns about his ability to participate in the trial and give instructions to his legal team because of his deteriorating mental health.
Odgers said the neurologist believed if Wilson was given the appropriate medication to improve his cognitive capacity he could return to normal in about three to six months.
The defence barrister said the neurologist did not believe Wilson was in a fit state to give evidence at this time.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison told the court Wilson had been charged more than two years ago and had never been required to attend court until today.
Harrison pointed out Wilson had a pacemaker fitted less than a week before the trial was finally due to begin.
He said the Crown planned to call 16 witnesses during the trial and they were ready to give evidence but the case could not go ahead in Wilson’s absence.
The NSW Court of Appeal in June dismissed Wilson’s third attempt to have the proceedings against him quashed or permanently stayed.
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