FORMER Hunter priest Archbishop Philip Wilson, the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be charged with concealing the child sex crimes of another priest, has failed in his third bid to stop the case against him from proceeding.
The NSW Court of Appeal on Tuesday dismissed Archbishop Wilson’s latest appeal, rejecting claims from his barrister Bret Walker, SC, that the charge against him was invalid because of changes to the law since 1971, when Hunter priest Jim Fletcher is alleged to have sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy at Maitland.
Archbishop Wilson was charged with failing to tell police between 2004 and 2006 of what he allegedly knew or believed about Fletcher, based on alleged conversations with two alleged victims of Fletcher in 1976.
Police allege the information might have helped in 2004 after Fletcher was charged with offences against a third victim, and convicted of serious child sex offences. Fletcher died in jail in 2006.
The police case is that a Hunter woman and a priest told Archbishop Wilson in 2004 that Fletcher had sexually assaulted a fourth victim.
Archbishop Wilson’s legal team had submitted that the offence committed by Fletcher was not a “serious indictable offence” and, therefore, the charge against Archbishop Wilson should be “quashed”.
The latest judgement comes after Newcastle Local Court Magistrate Robert Stone dismissed an application to permanently put a halt to the case in February last year.
And then in October, NSW Supreme Court Justice Monika Schmidt rejected Archbishop Wilson’s appeal against Mr Stone’s decision.
The NSW Court of Appeal judgement means Archbishop Wilson will have to appear in Newcastle Local Court to face the charge or appeal again to the High Court of Australia.