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Adelaide's Catholic Archbishop fails to stop criminal case

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Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop has failed to stop criminal proceedings against him over claims he concealed a colleague’s sexual abuse of a young boy.

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Archbishop Philip Wilson is charged with concealing information about the 1971 sexual assault of a 10-year-old boy by pedophile priest James Fletcher in the NSW town of Maitland.

The prosecution claims Wilson knew or had information that might have helped to secure a prosecution of the priest between 2004-2006.

The archbishop, who has pleaded not guilty to the charge in the Newcastle Local Court, is the most senior Catholic official worldwide to be charged with such an offence.

In February, a magistrate refused to quash or permanently stay the proceedings.

On Friday in the NSW Supreme Court, Justice Monika Schmidt dismissed the archbishop’s appeal against that decision.

She rejected claims including that the magistrate erred in finding the charge was a valid one.

Wilson’s lawyers also argued the proceedings were “foredoomed to fail”.

They said the prosecution evidence was incapable of establishing the archbishop had the “requisite belief” that Fletcher had committed the 1971 offence.

“Mere suspicion” on his part was not sufficient to prove the charge, they said.

The prosecution case includes allegations that a young parishioner told Wilson in 1976 about being abused by the priest when he was an altar boy five years earlier.

“The victim’s allegations were about repeated offending of the most serious kind, involving masturbation, oral and other sexual assault of a young child by a priest, contrary not only to law, but it may reasonably be inferred, contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” Justice Schmidt said.

“Consistent with the evidence that the archbishop reacted with shock to the information and assured the victim that such assault was not used for punishment, it may also be inferred that this was not a commonplace experience for the archbishop at that time, but an unusual one.”

The judge concluded that “at its highest” and, if accepted, all the available evidence was capable of establishing Wilson held the alleged belief.

The charge was originally laid by NSW Police in March 2015.

Wilson released a statement at the time saying he completely denied the allegation and was disappointed NSW Police had decided to file a charge.

Following the charges he took leave from his post, returning to work at the beginning of this year.

The Archbishop’s spokesperson did not respond to inquiries from InDaily today.

– with AAP

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