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Law 'too narrow' for Magee prosecution

THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) declined to prosecute Bishop John Magee because a 1997 law under which gardai wanted him charged was "not broad enough" to deal with the cleric's alleged concealment.

Legal sources say the DPP believed that any prosecution was likely to be challenged and immediately thrown out of court because the 'proofs' -- the evidence required to meet the charge -- could not be met.

It could not be proved that Dr Magee made a financial gain from withholding information from the authorities about a paedophile priest. The evidence he gave to the authorities stood in stark contrast to a version about the priest that he supplied to the Vatican.

Records sent to the Vatican stated that Fr Brendan Wrixon immediately admitted sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy during a 2005 interview with Dr Magee. However, diocesan records showed that Fr Wrixon denied sexually abusing a 16-year-old boy.

The discovery in 2009 of the conflicting versions prompted gardai to recommend to the DPP that Dr Magee be prosecuted for withholding information that was of "material assistance" in securing the prosecution or conviction of an offender.

But the possibility of charging Dr Magee under the Criminal Law Act 1997 foundered because it could not be proved that there was 'consideration', otherwise known as financial gain, on the bishop's behalf.

Consideration is a stipulation in section 8 of the 1997 act which replaced a broader law -- abolished in the same year -- which made failure to report a crime, a crime itself.

The axing of the maligned misprision of felony law deprived prosecutors of the opportunity to prosecute many senior church figures.


Fr Wrixon pleaded guilty at Cork Circuit Criminal Court last November to three counts of gross indecency against a 16-year-old youth between October 16, 1982, and February 15, 1983.

Fr Wrixon (75), the only one of 19 priests in the Cloyne Report to have been convicted, was given an 18-month suspended sentence.

Gardai and legal experts are anticipating a wave of fresh reporting by the church and others ahead of mandatory reporting laws which are at the heart of the Government's legislative response to the fallout of the Cloyne Report.

Irish Independent