Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson Faces Magistrate-alone Trial in Newcastle over Alleged Abuse Cover-up
By Lucy Carter and Giselle Wakatama
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
December 5, 2017
|PHOTO: The Adelaide Archbishop is in Newcastle after being declared fit to stand trial. (ABC News: Lucy Carter)|
Archbishop Philip Wilson has appeared in court in Newcastle on one count of covering up an indictable offence after being declared fit to stand trial.
He flew into Newcastle today from Adelaide for the magistrate-alone trial.
The 67-year-old is accused of covering up abuse by priest Jim Fletcher in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s.
The Adelaide Archbishop is the most senior Catholic in the world to be charged with this offence.
Last week, Archbishop Wilson's legal team told Newcastle Local Court their client had just had a pacemaker put in and had received an Alzheimer's diagnosis after a fall.
His barrister, Stephen Odgers, told the court his client had memory problems and may lack the capacity to give evidence or direct his legal team.
He argued for an adjournment of the Archbishop's trial to allow for a higher cognitive assessment by a neuropsychologist.
That was done yesterday and he was deemed fit, meaning he was able to fly to Newcastle.
Abuse survivors call for retirement
After his statement was released, some abuse survivors called for the Archbishop to step down in the wake of his diagnosis.
But Archbishop Wilson resisted.
"If a point comes in the next eight years before my mandatory retirement, and I am advised by my doctors that the effects of Alzheimer's disease might be beginning to impair my ability to function properly as Archbishop, I will offer my resignation," he said.
"I have informed Pope Francis' ambassador in Australia, the Apostolic Nuncio, of my diagnoses and will provide him with the medical reports."
The Archbishop said he hoped to reach out to others with Alzheimer's "to be a sign of support and encouragement to them".
Mr Odgers previously said his client was keen to have his day in court.