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US bishop sex abuse case dropped

Prosecutors have dropped a case against a former Massachusetts bishop, Thomas Dupre, hours after he was charged with raping two children in the 1970s.

It was the first time charges had been brought against a high-ranking member of the country's Roman Catholic Church.   But Bishop Dupre's lawyer said too much time had passed before the allegations were made.   The former bishop headed Springfield diocese for nine years. He resigned last February but was not defrocked.

At least twelve bishops have been investigated over similar accusations and four have resigned since 2002, when allegations of sexual abuse were published.   The neighbouring Boston diocese was forced to pay out $85m in compensation to sexual abuse victims after a series of scandals two years ago and its archbishop, Bernard Law, was forced to resign.   Mr Dupre, 70, was charged by a grand jury with raping and sexually abusing two boys under the age of 16 in 1976 and 1979.

The district attorney of the county of Hampden, William Bennett, said he had found no evidence of other victims or other crimes such as tampering with witnesses or obstruction of justice.   The accusations were made more than six years after the alleged crimes took place, after the statute of limitations had expired.   "I felt I took it as far as I could," Mr Bennett said. "We've done everything we could do."

But the bishop still faces lawsuits filed by his accusers, Mr Bennett said, and the investigation's findings would be passed on to authorities in other states where some of the abuse allegedly took place.

Source: BBC News


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