In May 2018, Bishop Phillip Wilson, was convicted of failing to report the abuse of several altar boys by Priest James Fletcher in the 1970s. Bishop Wilson was Assistant Priest to James Fletcher in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales at the time of the abuse and is currently the most senior member of the Catholic Church in Australia to have been convicted of a crime relating to child sex abuse.

Bishop Wilson was sentenced on 3 July 2018 in Newcastle Magistrates Court in New South Wales to a twelve month prison term, six months of which will be served on home detention and a further six months to be served on parole.

In response to concerns over members of the clergy’s failure to report abuse, Australia has implemented “The National Redress Scheme”, a compensation scheme for victims of institutional child sex abuse. Furthermore, the state of South Australia has passed new legislation, taking effect in October 2018, compelling members of the clergy who receive reports of child sex abuse to report the matter to the police. However, Canon Law forbids a priest to relay information received by a penitent and the effectiveness of the new laws remains to be seen.

The landmark changes to this area of law in Australia are part of a worldwide call to account of perpetrators of child sex abuse within religious institutions. In England and Wales, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse is currently conducting investigations into child sex abuse within the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church, as well as investigations into state institutions, such as Nottinghamshire Councils, to which Farleys represents a Core Participant. The investigations are conducted with a view to making recommendations to support victims and prevent further abuse.

Here at Farleys, we have substantial experience of dealing with allegations of sexual abuse within religious institutions.

We appreciate that it can be very difficult to talk about what happened. We address all enquiries with sensitivity and in the strictest confidence. Call our specialist abuse line on 0330 134 6430 or email us at