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Australian archbishop guilty of concealing child sex abuse

AFP  |  Sydney 

An Australian was today found guilty of covering up child sex abuse in the 1970s -- one of the highest-ranked church officials globally to be successfully prosecuted for such offences.

Adelaide Philip Wilson, 67, was accused of concealing abuse by notorious in the region of New state by failing to report the allegations.

He denied the charges and his legal team made four attempts to have the case thrown out, arguing Wilson's diagnosis of Alzheimer's should preclude him from trial -- even though it did not prevent him retaining his position in the church.

found him guilty at of concealing a serious indictable offence of another person, with the facing a maximum of two years in jail. Sentencing will be at a later date.

"I am obviously disappointed at the decision published today," Wilson said in a brief statement.

"I will now have to consider the reasons and consult closely with my lawyers to determine the next steps." There was no dispute that Fletcher, who is now dead, sexually abused altar boy Peter Creigh, with the hearing focused on whether Wilson, then a junior priest, was told about it.

The reported from the court that Stone found Creigh, who broke down in tears after the verdict, to be a truthful and reliable witness.

Stone added that he did not accept Wilson could not remember a 1976 conversation in which Creigh described the abuse in detail, saying he "had no motive or interest to deceive or make up the conversation".

Peter Gogarty, another Fletcher victim, told he hoped the verdict would "open the doors for other jurisdictions to start looking at trying to prosecute people who deliberately looked after their institution and, literally, threw children to the wolves".

The charges, laid in 2015, stemmed from the work of Strike Force Lantle, which since 2010 investigated claims of child abuse concealment by former and current clergy attached to the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese of the

Wilson grew up in the area and was a in Maitland before appointed him of in 1996. Five years later he became the His conviction is another headache for Pope Francis, whose papacy has been haunted by allegations of sex abuse among Catholic priests.

Last week, 34 Chilean bishops announced their resignation over a child sex abuse scandal.

Several members of the Chilean church hierarchy are accused by victims of ignoring and covering up child abuse by Chilean during the 1980s and 1990s.

has also been plagued by the issue with a national inquiry into ordered in 2012 after a decade of pressure to investigate widespread allegations of institutional paedophilia.

The commission spoke to thousands of victims and heard claims of abuse involving churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups and schools.

Mark Coleridge, of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, a national body used by bishops to address issues of national significance, said Wilson had yet to decide whether to appeal.

"The Catholic Church, like other institutions, has learned a great deal about the tragedy of and has implemented stronger programs, policies and procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults," he said.

"The safety of children and vulnerable adults is paramount for the church and its ministries.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, May 22 2018. 18:05 IST