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Victim Finally Receives Justice, Six Years After First Complaint

Irish Times, November 13, 2010 by Barry Roche

ANALYSIS: THE DECISION by the DPP to prosecute Fr Brendan Wrixon for gross indecency followed a second investigation by gardaí into a complaint against the elderly cleric after a church child protection agency handed over files from the Diocese of Cloyne to officers in Mallow.

The complaint by the injured party that he had been sexually abused by a priest while a teenager in the early 1980s was first made to Bishop of Cloyne Dr John Magee in December 2004 and six months later in May 2005, the complainant identified the priest as Wrixon.

Bishop Magee met with Wrixon in September 2005 and following this meeting, Wrixon resigned from his duties as a parish priest in north Cork and, two months later, the Diocese of Cloyne notified gardaí in Mallow of the complaint.

The then-Cloyne child protection delegate Mons Denis Callaghan wrote to gardaí in Mallow to inform them that a complaint had been received and although he named the complainant, he didn’t name Wrixon as the alleged perpetrator.

Gardaí met with the complainant in early 2006 and in October 2006, they interviewed Wrixon before forwarding a file on the matter to the DPP who responded in February 2007 with a direction that there should be no prosecution.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, Ian Elliott, began a review of how the Diocese of Cloyne had handled complaints of child sexual abuse by two priests in the diocese

He examined the diocese’s handling of the complaint against Wrixon, whom he identified in his subsequent report as Fr A, and, after initially not receiving the full diocesan file on Wrixon, he was given access to all diocesan material on the complaint in April 2008.

Mr Elliott’s report was published by the Diocese of Cloyne in December 2008 and was highly critical of the diocese’s child protection procedures, saying they were inadequate and dangerous and potentially exposed vulnerable young people to further harm.

Publication of the report prompted a retired schoolteacher to make a complaint to the gardaí in January 2009 about the handling of the Wrixon case, alleging Bishop Magee had endangered children by failing to disclose certain information regarding Wrixon.

Gardaí reopened the investigation and examined documentation made available to Mr Elliott for his review by the Diocese of Cloyne and following the discovery of new information in that material, reinterviewed Wrixon by arrangement last March about the complaint.

A file was resubmitted to the DPP and earlier this year the DPP recommended a prosecution and Wrixon was arrested and charged at Mallow District Court last month with committing three counts of gross indecency with the injured party.

The DPP has since decided against prosecution of Bishop Magee for endangerment, having expressed reservations about the feasibility of proving beyond reasonable doubt that children were put at risk by the bishop’s failure fully to disclose all information relating to Wrixon.

Bishop Magee stepped down from administrative duties in the Diocese of Cloyne in March 2009 to enable him assist the commission of inquiry into the Dublin archdiocese after the government extended its remit to investigate allegations of abuse in Cloyne.

And in March this year, Bishop Magee retired as Bishop of Cloyne, issuing a statement in which he apologised to anyone abused by any priest in the diocese and accepted full responsibility for criticisms of his management of child protection practices in the diocese.