SA archbishop cover-up verdict praised

Gemma Najem
Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson has been found guilty of concealing historical child sex abuse

Abuse survivors hope the "groundbreaking" conviction of Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson for covering up child sexual abuse is the first of many against Catholic officials who've turned a blind eye.

The 67-year-old was found guilty on Tuesday of concealing the abuse of four boys by pedophile priest James Fletcher during the 1970s in the NSW Hunter region.

Sexual assault lawyer Vivian Waller said the conviction was an important milestone for survivors and should put the Catholic Church on notice.

"We hope moving forward the Catholic Church will be more motivated by the avoidance of criminal sanction, of criminal charges, to do the right thing," Dr Waller told AAP.

"It's a shame it has to go that far."

Dr Waller, who heads a firm dedicated to representing sex abuse victims, said criminal codes across Australia needed to include the offence of not disclosing information relating to abuse.

Former senior NSW detective Peter Fox, who had previously alleged the church covered up Fletcher's offending, said he was delighted someone within the church was now being held to account.

"It's a major turning point. It's been very difficult for so many of these witnesses. I can't tell you how difficult it's been," Mr Fox told AAP.

"I am confident this will make waves in the Vatican."

Mr Fox said the abuse of one survivor could have been entirely prevented had Wilson taken action when told of Fletcher's abuse of then-altar boy Peter Creigh, who gave evidence at the trial.

Wilson is the most senior Catholic official in the world to be charged and convicted of concealing a serious indictable offence committed by another person.

Clare Leaney, executive manager at victim support group In Good Faith Foundation, said it was promising to see the law apply regardless of rank.

"It's certainly groundbreaking ... I think that gives survivors a lot of hope," she told AAP.

"Obviously we'd like to see similar occurrences across Australia."

Former Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests worker and abuse survivor Nicky Davis said it was amazing "to see this one go all the way".

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, who heads the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said it was not yet clear whether Wilson will appeal the verdict.

"Archbishop Wilson maintained his innocence throughout this long judicial process," the president of the powerful church body said.

Archbishop Coleridge said the church had learned a great deal and implemented stronger programs and safeguards.