Archbishop Philip Wilson will serve jail sentence as home detention, after guilty verdict

ENRAGED Hunter abuse survivor Peter Gogarty called the Catholic Church a “disgusting corrupt organisation” outside Newcastle Courthouse today after dramatic scenes as Archbishop Philip Wilson started home detention for concealing Hunter priest Jim Fletcher’s child sex crimes.

Mr Gogarty called on Wilson to say sorry and show contrition, accused a Wilson supporter of calling him “rubbish”, and vowed to continue standing up to the church only weeks after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull backed his campaign to have Wilson resign or be sacked, that ended with Pope Francis accepting the archbishop’s resignation.

“Where is the contrition from former Archbishop Philip Wilson? His Grace, as somebody just said upstairs, has shown no grace,” said Mr Gogarty, who once knew Wilson well enough to call him Phil, and whose family knew Wilson as a young Hunter priest from the mid-1970s. 

“This man (Wilson) said two weeks ago that he was resigning because of the hurt to people like me. But I’m still here still hurting and he’s now going to lodge an appeal, and we could wait months and months and months for that process to play out,” said Mr Gogarty, after telling the media he was “beside myself about this” as Wilson left to begin home detention.

“We’ve had one priest, who was going to give evidence against the archbishop, take his own life. We have another victim of Fletcher who can’t be here today because he has serious health problems, and the archbishop does not have a single, solitary word to say to anybody like me that says ‘Sorry for your suffering’.

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“We’ve just had another member of the Catholic Church basically call me dirt,” he said of an altercation between himself and a Wilson supporter where the supporter used the word “rubbish” in a comment in response to Mr Gogarty’s call for the man to speak to him “on camera, right now, you and me”.

Mr Gogarty, who was sexually abused by Fletcher from the age of 11, vowed to “take every opportunity over the next few months to do everything I can to bring the attention of the public to this disgusting corrupt organisation and I hope that at the end of this the archbishop’s conviction sticks, and I hope he enjoys his six months having a holiday at his sister’s house”.

“I am a nuisance. And if the Catholic Church thinks I’m a nuisance now, brace yourselves, because I’m going to stay a nuisance. The community is on my side and on the side of victims and survivors everywhere.”

The archbishop did not respond to any requests to speak outside the court after a short hearing where Newcastle Local Court magistrate Robert Stone said an assessment found Wilson could complete his 12-month jail sentence as home detention, with a minimum six-months at an undisclosed NSW location.

A previous hearing was told Wilson’s sister’s Central Coast home was a suitable location to complete the sentence.

Wilson’s barrister Ian Temby, QC, said the archbishop would lodge an appeal today against his May 22 conviction for failing to report child sex allegations about Fletcher to police, but Wilson did not apply for bail pending the appeal. He elected to start his sentence on Tuesday, with the six-month home detention term ending in February.

Hunter man Daniel Feenan, whose statements to police in 2003 led to Fletcher’s conviction for child sex crimes, also criticised Wilson outside the court for failing to speak and backed Mr Gogarty’s call to Wilson of “One word of contrition, Philip?”

“I’d like to see him show some type of remorse and I’d like to see him apologise,” Mr Feenan said, after Mr Stone noted in his sentencing remarks in early July that Wilson had shown no remorse or contrition, and his primary motive in not reporting Fletcher to police was to protect the church.

“I’ve had to show remorse over the years and apologise for things that have happened in my life and he still hasn’t done that,” Mr Feenan said.

Wilson’s decision to start home detention on Tuesday rather than wait for the outcome of an appeal against his conviction was read by Mr Feenan “that he’s accepted his sentence and he’ll be serving it”.

Mr Feenan declined to comment about whether home detention sent a strong enough message to the community about how the criminal justice system viewed concealing child sex offences, but said he was happy Wilson was convicted and that he was sentenced to jail, although to be served as home detention.

“I can’t comment on how our legal system works,” he said.

Hunter woman Anthea Halpin, who was sexually abused by Hunter priest Denis McAlinden, and whose complaint to police led to the establishment of Strike Force Lantle which charged Wilson, said she was not surprised that Wilson will serve the sentence as home detention.

“I expected this would happen but I’m not unhappy. He’s a convicted criminal. He was called a prisoner in court and he’s lost his job. I think that sends a clear enough message,” Mrs Halpin said.