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Priests to face fresh charges of child sex abuse

Twenty new files will be sent to DPP in garda probe

Tom Brady and Shane Phelan

Published 20/09/2010 | 05:00

MORE priests face being charged with child abuse following inquiries by a garda team set up after the damning Ryan Report.

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Up to 20 files are to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by a special squad of detectives investigating fresh complaints of sexual and physical assaults by clerics.

The files are expected to be completed in the coming days and will then be forwarded to the DPP to determine if criminal charges should be brought against any of the suspects.

In another development last night, it emerged that senior members of the clergy here could be interviewed by gardai as part of a separate investigation into the Murphy Report on clerical abuse in the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin.

Officers examining the Murphy findings will decide shortly if they need to interview bishops and other clerics, or members of the garda force and the HSE as part of the investigation.

Gardai said they had the power to interview anybody deemed to be in possession of relevant information.

The revelations came as Pope Benedict XVI left Britain after a four-day visit yesterday.

The Pontiff acknowledged the sex abuse scandal "seriously undermines the moral credibility" of the church. But he said church leaders had taken "serious steps" to ensure children were protected from harm.

The progress in the Ryan inquiries follow the setting up of a telephone hotline, which resulted in new lines of investigation here and in the UK into 150 fresh complaints.

All of the complaints were lodged with the gardai after the publication in May last year of the Ryan Report, which detailed horrific abuse by members of religious orders.

A group of clerics accused of abuse offences have since died and those inquiries have been closed while other callers wanted details of progress achieved on allegations that had already been made.

But detectives also carried out extensive enquiries here and in Britain into new allegations.

A number of the alleged offences took place some years ago and are regarded as historic. But it will be up to the DPP to make the final decision on whether the suspected offenders should be pursued through the courts.

Assaults

An overall report on the investigation has been completed and is being examined by the garda authorities before the 20 files are sent off.

The investigation into the Ryan complaints is being led by a team of officers, set up under the command of Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, who is in charge of the force's national support services.

About 60pc of the fresh complaints involved sexual abuse of children by members of religious orders, while the rest referred to physical assaults.

Other cases investigated prior to the Ryan Report have already resulted in convictions against abusers in the courts.

Meanwhile, a team of 10 detectives, led by Assistant Commissioner John O'Mahoney, is examining whether bishops, gardai and state officials have criminal cases to answer arising from the Murphy Report on the Dublin archdiocese.

The inquiry, ongoing since last November, has been investigating figures criticised in the report to see if issues of criminal liability arise.

Sources familiar with the progress of the inquiry say no deadline has been set for its conclusion.

Its remit is to examine the findings of the Murphy Report in relation to how the complaints were handled, carry out investigations and enquiries as appropriate and present recommendations to Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

Similar to the garda inquiry following the Ryan Report, investigators have encountered a number of obstacles so far.

They have been unable to rely on evidence gathered for the Murphy Report as the State gave a legal undertaking that testimony would not be used in prosecutions.

A number of people who could have helped with certain aspects of the inquiry are now dead or living abroad.

The Murphy Report concluded that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the archdiocese and other church authorities.

It found that archbishops handled child sexual abuse complaints badly, with none reporting their knowledge of abuse between the 1960s and 1980s.

A number of auxiliary bishops were also criticised.

The month after the report was published four bishops tendered their resignations, including the Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray and the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin James Moriarty.

Two auxiliary bishops, Raymond Field and Eamonn Walsh, also offered their resignations -- however, they were not accepted by Pope Benedict XVI.

Irish Independent

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