Ausralian archbishop Philip Wilson, who was convicted in May of failing to disclose a sex abuse case, was today granted bail while prison authorities assess his situation. Wilson is likely to serve home detention rather than a jail sentence, and will have to return to court next month for a decision on where he will serve the sentence.
67-year-old Wilson, who was the archbishop of Adelaide, is the most senior Catholic cleric to be convicted of concealing sexual abuse of children in the church.
"There is no remorse or contrition shown by the offender," Newcastle Court Magistrate Robert Stone said of Wilson in emailed sentencing remarks.
The offender is a senior figure in one of the most respected institutions in our society ... parishioners were betrayed most callously and cruelly because of their misplaced faith, trust and respect, not only by the perpetrator but as in this case by those who knew and concealed it.
Lawyers for Wilson, who maintained his innocence throughout the legal process, had argued that he did not know that Fletcher had abused a boy.
A landmark judgement
Although his sentence was shorter than a similar verdict in the United States and despite the fact he was not immediately jailed, it was still hailed as an important victory by abuse survivors. "That is a landmark case right across the world ... the conviction sticks," Peter Creigh, who was abused by Fletcher, told reporters outside the court in Newcastle, north of Sydney.
Wilson faced a maximum term of two years in jail. The Newcastle Herald newspaper reported that he showed no emotion in court when the sentence was handed down. Wilson will be eligible for parole after six months.
Dressed in black and wearing a cleric's collar, he made no remarks to journalists outside the court, television footage showed.
The court was told in December that Wilson had early-stage Alzheimer's disease, a factor that may be taken into account in determining where he serves the term. Wilson stepped down as the archbishop of Adelaide last month.
Allegations of sexual abuse cover-ups have continued to rock the Catholic Church years after perpetrators of sexual abuse started regularly appearing before the courts.
In similar news, 34 bishops in Chile, in May, offered to resign over allegations of a cover-up of sexual abuse.