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French Bishop convicted in paedophile case

A court has convicted a Catholic bishop of concealing knowledge that a priest was sexually abusing children, sentencing him to a three-month suspended prison term.

The prosecution said Pierre Pican, 66, bishop of Bayeux-Lisieux in Normandy, had failed to ensure the case was brought to the attention of judicial authorities.

He becomes the first bishop in modern French history to receive a criminal conviction.

The sentence was lighter than the four-to-six-month suspended prison term sought by Prosecutor Jacques-Philippe Segondat. The maximum sentence would have been three years in jail.

The prosecutor, in his argument at the close of Pican's trial in June, had made clear that it was not the church that was being judged.

"This is not the trial of the church, but of a man of the church who failed in his duty," the prosecutor had told the court.

Pican's lawyers had argued that the bishop had been motivated by what amounts to professional secrets even though he learned of the priest's acts outside the church confessional.

But the prosecution said this legal notion did not apply to crimes against children.

The priest, Father Rene Bissey, was convicted in October of raping and sexually abusing 11 minors from 1996-1998, and sentenced to 18 years in prison.