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Church 'delight' after DPP decides not to appeal Wilson decision

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The NSW Director of Public Prosecutions won’t appeal the decision of a judge who quashed former archbishop Philip Wilson’s conviction for covering up child sex abuse by a pedophile priest.

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The Catholic church is delighted the former archbishop will have the chance to recover after his “ordeal”.

The office of the DPP said yesterday it had “no right of appeal against the dismissal of a charge in these circumstances”.

“An appeal can only be made on errors of law,” the ODPP said in a statement.

“After careful consideration, it was decided that there were no reasonable prospects of success of appeal on errors of law.”

Prosecutors argued Wilson was told by two altar boys in 1976 that they’d been abused by pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region.

It was alleged he subsequently failed to go to the police after Fletcher was arrested in 2004 for abusing another boy.

A magistrate convicted Wilson earlier this year but District Court judge Roy Ellis in early December ordered the clergyman be discharged.

The judge said there was a reasonable doubt whether Wilson remembered being told about the abuse in 1976 or believed the victim had been preyed upon by Fletcher.

He said suspicion was not a substitute for proof.

The NSW Attorney-General immediately asked the DPP to consider appealing the decision but on Thursday confirmed prosecutors didn’t intend to pursue the case further.

“The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has informed me this afternoon that it does not intend to commence an appeal from the decision of District Court Judge Ellis to dismiss the charge against former archbishop Philip Wilson,” Attorney-General Mark Speakman said in a statement.

“I have requested independent legal advice on the matter.”

Bishop Greg O’Kelly, the acting administrator of the Adelaide archdiocese, said he was “delighted at the news of the positive completion of the legal processes”.

“We are very satisfied with the outcome and await the appointment of a new Archbishop of Adelaide,” he said in a statement.

“Emeritus Archbishop Wilson, who resigned on July 30, will now have the opportunity to recuperate and gain strength after this ordeal.”

In a further statement released this morning, O’Kelly acknowledged the “hurt and suffering of the survivors of child sexual abuse”.

“It has been an ordeal for all concerned, in particular the victims of acts of abuse whom we encourage to approach whatever healing processes we might offer.”

– AAP

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