NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman has sought independent legal advice about the Director of Public Prosecutions’ decision not to appeal the overturning of a conceal conviction against former Archbishop Philip Wilson.
In a short statement after the DPP confirmed today it would take no further action on the Wilson case, Mr Speakman said he was advised of the decision this afternoon, and “I have requested independent legal advice on the matter”.
“My thoughts are with those affected by this case,” Mr Speakman said.
The DPP said it will not appeal the dismissal of the charge of concealing a serious indictable offence after the archbishop’s appeal against his conviction was upheld by Newcastle District Court Judge Roy Ellis on December 7.
“The Director of Public Prosecutions has no right of appeal against the dismissal of a charge in these circumstances,” the DPP said.
“An appeal can only be made on errors of law. After careful consideration, it was decided that there were no reasonable prospects of success of appeal on errors of law.”
Archbishop Wilson was convicted on May 22 of failing to report child sex allegations about Hunter priest Jim Fletcher to police between 2004 and 2006. He was the most senior Catholic cleric in the world to be convicted of a conceal offence.
He appealed the decision, but resigned from his position as Adelaide archbishop after then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made public statements supporting his resignation.
On December 7 Newcastle District Court Judge Ellis overturned the conviction after rejecting substantial elements of the case against the archbishop, and questioning the accuracy of a key witness’ evidence.
Mr Speakman said the NSW Government enacted a new section of the NSW Crimes Act after the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse final report in December, 2017, making failing to report child abuse a criminal offence.
“We also listened to community concerns and strengthened the penalty under section 316A and section 316 of the Crimes Act (failing to report a serious indictable offence) to - in the most serious cases - a maximum five years imprisonment or seven years where the offender failed to report the abuse for a personal benefit,” Mr Speakman said.
“There is no greater obligation of individuals, the community and government than to protect our children from abuse,” he said.