Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson, convicted of failing to report child sexual abuse to police, has been sentenced to 12 months detention for concealing child sex abuse, avoiding prison time because of ailing health and his age, CNN reports.
The 67-year-old Wilson is the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be found guilty of hiding child sexual abuse – he had been facing a maximum penalty of two years in prison for covering up the actions of pedophile priest James Fletcher in the 1970s. Fletcher was arrested in 2004 and found guilty of nine counts of sexual assault of young altar boys. He died in prison in 2006.
Wilson, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, said during his trial in May that he had never been told of the abuse and issued a formal apology to the victims as bishop of Wollongong. Still, he was found guilty and refused to resign from his position but did step aside. The church has not asked for his resignation.
Magistrate Robert Stone said during the sentencing the sentence was due to "the criminality of the concealment" and recognizing the "harm done to the community."
"By concealing abuse it is demonstrating you are placing the needs of the perpetrator above the child," he added.
Stone adjourned the matter to Aug. 14 while Wilson's home detention order is assessed and where he could stay.
Victim Peter Gogarty after the sentencing said he was "disappointed that it's not a custodial sentence," but expressed hope Wilson would end up in prison.
"We have made history here in Australia, (this is the) highest ranked church official to ever be brought to account for what we know is a world wide systematic abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse," Gogarty said. "We have done something in Australia which no one else has been able to manage."
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