Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been ordered to travel to Newcastle to face court this week if he is cleared to stand trial by a specialist doctor, The Australian reports.
Archbishop Wilson, 67, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in recent weeks, which his legal team has argued has impacted his “cognitive function”. He was due to stand trial last week — more than 30 months after he was charged — on one charge of concealing a serious indictable offence.
A Newcastle Local Court magistrate on Friday ruled the case will be mentioned on Wednesday, the day after the Archbishop’s scheduled appointment with a neuropsychologist. The Archbishop is due to arrive by 2pm at court.
He is alleged to have failed to report child sex allegations about a NSW Hunter Valley priest who abused children in the 1970s. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutor Gareth Harrison told magistrate Caleb Franklin the Archbishop’s score in neurological tests would, according to expert evidence, “normally require someone to have a power of attorney”.
This contradicted what the Archbishop said in a letter tendered to court that was sent to the Adelaide Archdiocese, in which he stressed he would step down from his senior role if his Alzheimer’s began to impact his mental ability.
“It’s stark contrast to what the accused himself said shortly thereafter,” Mr Harrison said.
Magistrate Franklin said his concern is “getting it on as soon as possible.”
If the neurologist rules the Archbishop is not fit, the trial will be postponed until a later date. Even if the Archbishop is cleared, however, the matter is still unlikely to be resolved before mid-next year.
Only three days are left in the two weeks set aside for trial, and two weeks are estimated to be needed for the roughly 20 witnesses.
It would be the first time Archbishop Wilson has travelled to Newcastle over the charges.
The neuropsychologist’s examination is likely to be rigorously scrutinised if the Archbishop is found to be unfit for trial. The prosecution has said it would order its own examination with a separate neuropsychologist.