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Adelaide Archbishop's fate in the balance

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A NSW magistrate is considering a submission from Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson to drop the case against the clergyman involving claims he covered up child sex abuse by a fellow priest.

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After prosecutor Gareth Harrison formally closed the crown case against Wilson in the Newcastle Local Court today, defence barrister Stephen Odgers SC handed up a detailed “no case to answer” submission to magistrate Robert Stone.

Odgers noted the density of the material and suggested the magistrate would need some time to go over it before deciding if the case against Wilson should be dropped.

The defence lawyer said the submission dealt with evidence from two former altar boys who claim they told Wilson in 1976 how priest James Fletcher had sexually abused them.

One of Fletcher’s victims, Peter Creigh, says Wilson had a “look of horror” when he told him about the abuse but never reported the matter to police.

The second victim, who can’t be named, states Wilson told him the abuse claims were lies because Fletcher “was a good bloke”.

Wilson, 67, is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged with concealing child sex assault.

Fletcher was found guilty in December 2004 of nine counts of child sexual abuse and died in jail of a stroke in January 2006.

Odgers told the court today the “no case” submission questioned if the evidence from the two former altar boys proved Wilson had a tendency to conceal child sex abuse by the Catholic clergy.

The defence barrister had earlier told the court Wilson did not dispute meeting Creigh in 1976 but believed he had a false memory when it came to discussing Fletcher’s abuse.

Stone adjourned the trial to later today to give him time to consider the defence submission which is the fourth time Wilson’s lawyers have attempted to have the case thrown out.

The magistrate in February 2016 initially refused to quash or permanently stay the proceedings and then a NSW Supreme Court judge dismissed the archbishop’s appeal against that decision eight months later. The NSW Court of Appeal also ruled against Wilson in mid-2017.

The case finally began in December after Wilson was found fit to stand trial despite being diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

– AAP

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