Arch Bishop Philip Wilson was given a custodial sentence of one year with a non parole period of 6 months in Newcastle Court this morning. He will now be assessed by Corrective Services as to the suitability of this sentence being served in the form of home detention.
Magistrate Robert Stone went to great lengths to explain how the concealing of Child Sex Offences is something that will not be tolerated by society and how nothing less than a custodial sentence would be appropriate. Last month it was put to Magistrate Stone by Ian Temby QC that Wilson, if given a custodial sentence, could serve it a his sister’s house on the NSW Central Coast.
While this may initially seem to be a case of Wilson getting of far too lightly, a few things need to be considered. Firstly, just because Wilson is being assessed for suitability for home detention, that doesn’t mean that this is what will happen. If Corrective Services deems that Home Detention in the Terrigal premises is inappropriate for valid reasons, or, that he will do just fine and well in prison and there is no reason he shouldn’t go to “big boy” jail, then off to a real cell he will go. Sentencing statistics show that there is a 50/50 chance that home detention will be declined and he will have to serve time in a “real jail”.
Another point worth of note is that the crime that Wilson has been convicted of carries a maximum sentence of only two years imprisonment. He has been given half of the maximum sentence, which is very significant because the Royal Commission has shown that other clergy have covered up far more and far worse than what Wilson was found guilty of. This means that if they are charged and found guilty, then they will definitely get more and it will no doubt be in the big house.
For this reason, there are quite a few priests and pastors that came before the Royal Commission that should be biting their fingernails right now. They are in hot water regardless of what happens to Wilson next.
Further to all this, the fact that Wilson was not immediately dealt a full time custodial sentence a public outcry has already begun. People are disgusted with the inadequacy of the outdated, ineffective legislation that does little more than slap paedophile protectors like Wilson on the wrist. This sentiment may well positively influence the push for the NSW Government to create new legislation specifically targeting the concealing of child sex offences with sentences that bring the offence into the serious category thereby reflecting the public’s expectation and the criminality of the concealment.
With these things in mind, today’s outcome is very positive and will no doubt be the catalyst for more criminals within the church to be charged and for legislative change to be effected.
The Dept of Corrective Services will complete their assessment of Wilson’s suitability for home detention and his fate will be pronounced in Newcastle Court on 14th August 2018.