Adelaide Archbishop could be spared jail

Jodie Stephens
Archbishop Philip Wilson intends to appeal against his conviction for concealing child sex abuse

The most senior Catholic official in the world to be convicted of concealing child sex abuse - Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson - looks likely to serve his sentence in home detention.

The 67-year-old was in May found guilty of failing to report to police the historic sexual abuse of two altar boys by a pedophile priest, after a landmark magistrate-only trial in Newcastle Local Court.

Magistrate Robert Stone on Tuesday sentenced him to 12 months' imprisonment with six months non-parole over the offence, saying Wilson's main motivation had been to protect the church.

"In this case the offender is a senior figure in one of the most respected institutions in our society," Mr Stone said.

However, in a decision that prompted sighs in the packed public gallery, the magistrate ordered that Wilson be assessed for an order allowing him to serve his sentence in the community.

Wilson, who said nothing to media as he left court, will return to court on August 14 when the assessment has been completed.

In finding him guilty, the magistrate accepted that Peter Creigh and another altar boy in 1976 told him they'd been abused by priest James Fletcher but Wilson did nothing.

His offence relates to the period between 2004 and 2006, when Fletcher was charged with child sex offences.

The magistrate found Wilson had at that stage obtained the level of belief needed to report what he'd heard to authorities.

Fletcher was found guilty of child sexual abuse in 2004 and died in jail of a stroke in 2006.