Australian archbishop found guilty of concealing child sex abuse

Australian archbishop found guilty of concealing child sex abuse

AN Australian Archbishop faces up to two years in prison after being found guilty for covering up child sex abuse during the 1970's.

Philip Wilson, the archbishop of Adelaide, is expected to be sentenced by the court in June.

He was accused of covering up the abuse of altar boys by a paedophile priest colleague, James Fletcher, after being told about it in 1976 when he was an assistant parish priest in the state of New South Wales.

During his trial, he denied being told about the abuse by some of the victims.

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

An emailed statement from the local court in Newcastle, New South Wales, said Magistrate Robert Stone ruled the "offence proven".

Mr Stone said he did not accept that Wilson could not remember a conversation in 1976 in which the victim, who would have been 15 at the time, had described how he was abused by Fletcher a few years earlier.

"I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today," Wilson said in an emailed statement to media.

He said he would consult with his lawyers to decide his next steps.

One of Mr Fletcher's victims, former altar boy Peter Creigh, told the court he had described the abuse to Wilson in detail in 1976, five years after it took place.

Another victim, who cannot be named, told the court he disclosed the abuse in the confessional box when he was 11 years old. He said Wilson told him he was telling lies and to recite 10 Hail Mary prayers as punishment.

Child sexual abuse survivors praised the verdict in emotional scenes outside the court following the decision.

The Australian media has labelled Mr Wilson as the most senior Catholic in the world to be convicted on such a charge.

Earlier this month, an Australian court ordered the Vatican treasurer, Cardinal George Pell, to face two trials on sexual assault charges.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.