The former Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who was found guilty in May of concealing the abuse of altar boys in the 1970s by paedophile priest James Fletcher, has successfully appealed his conviction.
A court in New South Wales on Thursday ruled in favour of Wilson, saying there was reasonable doubt the clergyman had ever committed the crime, according to a statement from New South Wales Courts.
The 68-year-old was previously accused of failing to disclose allegations made about priest Jim Fletcher between 2004 and 2006 to police.
Wilson resigned from his post as Adelaide’s Archbishop in July, almost a month after his now quashed conviction of covering up the sexual abuse.
At the time of his resignation, the former archbishop said he had been waiting for the appeal process to be completed but was worried about the “growing level of hurt” he was causing.
The original guilty verdict against Wilson was seen as a pivotal moment with potentially far-reaching implications for other clergy members implicated in the child sex abuse scandal that’s engulfed the Catholic Church globally.
Wilson was an assistant priest when Fletcher, a Catholic priest based in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales, abused altar boys in the mid-1970s.
Prosecutors had argued the Archbishop failed to report the abuse to authorities, allowing Fletcher to remain in the clergy and abuse other children.
Wilson and Fletcher went their separate ways after 1976. Wilson then begins his climb through the church’s hierarchy, an assent which took him to the role of Archbishop of Adelaide in 2001.
Fletcher was never charged with any offending relating to his behaviour in 1976. However, in 2004, Fletcher was convicted of eight counts of child abuse and later sentenced to 10 years in prison. The eight charges were committed between 1989 and 1991.
Wilson was charged in 2015, accused of failing to report Fletcher’s abuse to police.