Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dutch police dropped charges

Dutch prosecutors were wrong to drop Catholic abuse cases

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch public prosecutors wrongly dropped two clear cases of sexual abuse of minors by two Roman Catholic priests in the 1980s but it was not a cover-up, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office said on Wednesday.

A new book published earlier in the day reported that both priests had confessed and numerous witnesses had testified for the defence, but prosecutors closed their inquiries after contacts with the Catholic hierarchy.

The book "Pious Sinners" by journalist Joep Dohmen also accused prosecutors of turning away victims trying to report abuse and working to deflect any discredit from the Church.

Like fellow churches in other European countries, the Dutch Catholic Church has been shaken this year by accusations of sexual abuse in its ranks. Over 900 people have reported abuse cases concerning Catholic clergy, most from decades ago.

"In the two cases from 1980 and 1985 mentioned in the book, there seems to have been a provable case which was dismissed under certain conditions," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "It must be said that these were not correct decisions."

The statement rejected the book's accusation of a cover-up and said that abusive church personnel had been convicted during the 1980s. "The prosecutors find that these allegations have no basis," it said.

The spokeswoman said she "did not recognise" the image the book gave of prosecutors trying to maintain good relationship with Church officials. She declined to give details about the two cases in 1980 and 1985.

Dohmen's NRC Handelsblad newspaper, which published excerpts from the book, quoted a lawyer for abuse victims as saying there was a "cover-up culture" among prosecutors decades ago.

"The prosecutors tried above all to keep good relations with the Church," lawyer Richard Korver said. "Many justice officers were loyal Catholics. That applied to judges as well."

An independent commission has been set up to investigate accusations of sexual abuse in churches and church-run schools. Most Dutch abuse cases date back to the 1950s and 1960s, before Catholic boarding schools began to close down in the 1970s.

(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger and Tom Heneghan)

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