September 30, 2016
The Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide has asked the NSW Supreme Court to dismiss a criminal charge alleging he failed to tell police about a priest’s child abuse, arguing it could not be proved he believed the allegations at the time.
The dispute, which is expected to go to the High Court, is being watched by police and the national child abuse royal commission as a test case for the potential prosecution of others alleged to have not disclosed such crimes.
Lawyers representing Archbishop Philip Wilson did not yesterday seek to challenge claims he was told by two children in 1976 that the priest, Father James Fletcher, had sexually abused underage boys.
“We are not talking about … moral obligations”, the archbishop’s barrister, Bret Walker SC, told the court, arguing that such abuse was not “a serious indictable offence” in the terms of legislation requiring that these crimes be disclosed.
The legislation states that a person who “knows or believes” such an offence has been committed must report that to the police, the court heard.
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