Friday, March 4, 2011

Priest sentenced
Rome priest sentenced to 15 years for paedophilia

A court in Rome has sentenced a former Catholic priest to 15 years in prison for child abuse, as a wave of paedophilia cases by clergymen across Europe reaches Pope Benedict XVI's doorstep.

Ruggero Conti, a former parish priest at Selva Candida on the outskirts of the Italian capital, was found guilty of abusing seven children between 1998 and 2008 when he was arrested. He had claimed complete innocence.

Prosecutors had sought 18 years in prison for Conti on charges of sex acts against minors, sexual violence and incitement to prostitution of a minor.

He was accused of carrying out some of his crimes on parish camping trips.

The case has attracted wide media attention in Italy as relatively few priestly abuse scandals have come to light in this predominantly Catholic country, compared to the hundreds in northern Europe and the United States.

A lawyer for the victims, Fabrizio Gallo, told reporters he would also seek "a just compensation" from Vatican authorities after the court ordered Conti to pay around 200,000 euros (279,000 dollars) in damages.

"This trial showed that the accusations were true and that the lives of many people have been destroyed forever. I hope the Church will find a solution and compensate victims who have been abandoned," Gallo said.

"No-one offered them a hand to help them or say sorry," he added.

During the trial, the bishop in charge of Conti's parish, Gino Reali, admitted he had ignored initial rumours saying: "I didn't believe them."

He later launched an investigation after two victims came forward.

Conti's lawyer, Patrizio Spinelli, said his client would appeal.

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