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Appeals collide for former Adelaide Archbishop


An appeal by the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions to have former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson jailed for covering up child sex abuse by a pedophile priest in the NSW Hunter region will be heard in November.

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The DPP has appealed magistrate Robert Stone’s decision to order Wilson, 67, to serve 12 months in home detention, arguing the sentence was inadequate and too lenient.

The appeal, which was mentioned for the first time before Newcastle District Court Judge Tim Gartelmann on Thursday, will be heard on November 27 – the same day as Wilson’s appeal against his conviction.

Judge Gartelmann ordered the DPP to file its submissions by November 9 with Wilson’s defence lawyers to file a response by November 16.

Wilson, who did not have to appear in court today, had been facing a maximum two years in jail when he was sentenced in mid-August to spend at least six months detained at his sister’s home before being eligible for parole.

Wilson was forced to resign as Adelaide’s archbishop in July after becoming the most senior Catholic clergyman in the world to be convicted of covering up child sex abuse.

During an earlier sentence hearing after Wilson’s conviction, prosecutor Gareth Harrison demanded the clergyman be jailed to send a strong message to deter others considering not reporting child sex abuse.

Harrison – who claimed Wilson was acting like a “cat on a hot tin roof” trying to absolve himself of guilt when he gave evidence at the landmark magistrate-only trial – said the ex-archbishop had been part of an entrenched and toxic culture of covering things up.

“He lied and the root of each of those lies is the unflinching loyalty to the Catholic church and protecting it at all costs,” Harrison said at the time.

Defence barrister Ian Tenby QC argued during the sentence hearing that Wilson might not survive jail if his diabetes, heart disease, early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and “recurrent falls” worsened amid the risk of violence from fellow inmates.

Wilson claims he can’t remember two altar boys telling him in 1976 they were abused by pedophile priest James Fletcher.

Fletcher was convicted in 2004 of sexually abusing another boy and died of a stroke in jail in January 2006.

When sentencing Wilson to home detention, Stone said the clergyman had shown no remorse or contrition for the cover-up and his primary motive had been to protect the Catholic church but he decided not to jail him because of his age, poor health and previous good character.


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