Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson was given a “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s disease two weeks before he was due to face court for failing to report child sexual abuse allegations to police, the Newcastle Herald reports.
The diagnosis was made only weeks after Archbishop Wilson had a fall requiring stitches to a head wound in an Adelaide emergency department, which led to a cardiologist’s appointment and emergency surgery last week to have a pacemaker fitted.
Magistrate Caleb Franklin adjourned a two-week trial expected to start in Newcastle yesterday after accepting there were questions about whether Archbishop Wilson, 67, was fit to stand trial based on a neurologist’s evidence, and the “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s.
A defence application for the adjournment to have Archbishop Wilson assessed by a neuropsychologist came more than two years after he was charged in March 2015 with failing to report child sex allegations about Hunter priest Jim Fletcher to police. He pleaded not guilty.
It also followed three unsuccessful attempts by the Archbishop to have the charge dismissed, including a NSW Court of Appeal hearing in June where three judges rejected his application.
Mr Franklin rejected a Crown application to start the trial before Archbishop Wilson is assessed by the neuropsychologist, telling the court “If he’s not fit to stand trial then I can’t force the matter to proceed”. But Mr Franklin expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the Archbishop’s adjournment application.
Adelaide neurologist Andrew Lee told the court he provided a “working diagnosis” of Alzheimer’s disease after lawyers for the Archbishop referred the cleric for assessment because of their concerns about his cognitive abilities following a meeting to discuss the trial.
“There are parts of the Archbishop’s brain that are not working properly, abnormally so,” Dr Lee said.
Dr Lee agreed with barrister for the Crown, Gareth Harrison, that the Archbishop might have been “malingering” in failing to complete some of the tests within time frames, and failing to draw a picture of a clock showing 10 past 11. But he “didn’t get the impression he was trying to put this on”, Dr Lee said.
Mr Franklin adjourned the matter until Friday to determine if the Archbishop could be assessed before a trial to start on Monday.
Sick archbishop Philip Wilson misses trial, won’t resign (The Australian)
Archbishop could be malingering: NSW court (The Australian)