ARCHBISHOP Philip Wilson is fit to stand trial on a charge of failing to disclose child sex allegations about a Hunter priest to police, a court has been told.
The senior cleric has “some degree of cognitive impairment” but on the whole was “fit to stand trial”, his solicitor Dominic Agresta told Newcastle Local Court magistrate Robert Stone on Wednesday.
The report followed an appointment on Tuesday evening with an Adelaide neuropsychologist after magistrate Caleb Franklin last week was told a neurologist had given a “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s disease after assessing the archbishop.
Archbishop Wilson is the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be charged with failing to report child sex allegations involving another priest to authorities. He has pleaded not guilty to the single charge.
The court heard the complainant – a man who alleged he was 15 when he spoke to the archbishop in 1976 and allegedly disclosed he had been sexually abused by Hunter priest Jim Fletcher five years earlier – was advised the trial could go ahead on Tuesday at 9pm.
Barrister for the prosecution, Gareth Harrison, said the complainant was anxious for the matter to proceed and had been “on tenterhooks” for the past week and a half after the trial was put on hold following the shock “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s.
The man will give evidence from Thursday morning, Mr Stone was told.
Archbishop Wilson is expected to be in court for the first time from 2pm Wednesday, after he was charged in March, 2015, and launched three separate appeals to have the charged dismissed.
The final appeal, to three judges of the NSW Court of Appeal in June, was rejected.
Mr Harrison told the court the original brief had been substantially reduced after negotiation between the Crown and the archbishop’s defence team, and after both sides told the court last week that the case was simple – what was said during the alleged conversation between the teenager and the then Father Philip Wilson in 1976.
Wednesday afternoon’s two-hour hearing is expected to be taken up with legal argument.