Australian archbishop steps down after being found guilty of 'concealing child sex abuse'

Australian archbishop steps down after being found guilty of 'concealing child sex abuse'

AN Australian archbishop found guilty of covering up child sex abuse on Tuesday has now announced he will stand down from his official duties.

Archbishop Philip Wilson, 67, was convicted yesterday of concealing abuse by failing to report allegations against notorious paedophile priest Jim Fletcher in New South Wales in the 1970s.

The Archbishop of Adelaide, who faces up to two years in jail, said today he will be stepping aside from his church duties while he weighs up the verdict.

He is expected to be sentenced in June.

“I am still considering those reasons together with my legal advisors,” Wilson said in a statement.

“While I do so, it is appropriate that, in the light of some of his Honour’s findings, I stand aside from my duties as Archbishop.”

Wilson’s legal team had made four attempts to have the case against him thrown out of court after he was diagnose with Alzheimer's.

They claimed the diagnosis should preclude him from trial, even though it seemingly did little to prevent him from retaining his position in Australia's Catholic Church.

He is now the highest-ranking church official to be convicted of covering up abuse charges.

Wilson added: “If at any point in time it becomes necessary or appropriate for me to take more formal steps, including by resigning as Archbishop, then I will do so."

There was no dispute that Fr Fletcher, who is no longer alive, sexually abused an altar boy named Peter Creigh.

The trial instead focused on whether Wilson, who was a junior priest in the 1970s, was told about the allegations at the time.

Mr Creigh told the court he had described the abuse to Wilson in detail in 1976 - five years after it took place.

Wilson's defence that he did not remember the conversation was rejected by the magistrate.