Australian Archbishop found guilty of concealing child sex abuse
Archbishop Philip Wilson abuse concealment case the 'tip of the iceberg'
The verdict in the case of Archbishop Philip Wilson — the most senior Catholic to be charged with concealing child abuse — is already being declared a "landmark" case, with one legal expert predicting it could trigger a flood of other prosecutions.
- Wilson is the most senior Catholic to have been charged with concealing abuse
- Lawyer Craig Caldicott says today's guilty verdict could prompt other prosecutions
- He expects Wilson to appeal, and says the case could end up in the High Court
Wilson — who became the Archbishop of Adelaide in 2001 — was found guilty of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the NSW Hunter region in the 1970s.
Magistrate Robert Stone told the court he did not accept Wilson could not recall a 1976 conversation with the victim.
Prominent defence lawyer and co-chair of the South Australian Law Society's criminal law committee Craig Caldicott said today's verdict was important because of the precedent it set.
He estimated the number of potentially similar cases in Catholic diocese across Australia was in the hundreds.
"There's a whole series of cases right across Australia where the Roman Catholic Church and indeed other churches have not reported offences," Mr Caldicott told ABC Radio Adelaide.
"I suspect that this is now going to be the tip of the iceberg.
"Other senior people are going to be facing charges such as have been before the court in the case of Archbishop Wilson."
Fletcher was convicted of child sex offences in 2004 and died in jail in 2006.
But Magistrate Stone said if Wilson had told police what he knew it would have helped in the prosecution against Fletcher.
Mr Caldicott said the case put the legal spotlight on Catholic doctrines such as the seal of confession and pontifical secrecy.
"Teachers and doctors — if they are aware of sexual abuse they have got mandatory reporting, but the Roman Catholic Church doesn't," he said.