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Scottish archbishop claims abuse-conviction nun innocent

The new leader of the Church in Scotland has prompted controversy by claiming a nun convicted of violently abusing children in her care was innocent.

Archbishop Mario Conti said he believes Sr Alphonso, also known as Marie Theresa Docherty, is the victim of a miscarriage of justice and should have her conviction quashed.

In September 2000, the nun was found guilty of cruel and unnatural treatment of children at orphanages in Aberdeen and Lasswade, Midlothian, between 1965 and 1980.

The trial sheriff, who admonished her, said he would have considered jail had it not been for her age, poor health, lack of previous convictions and the time that had passed since the offences.

Archbishop Conti, who was appointed Archbishop of Glasgow last month after the death of Cardinal Thomas Winning said that he had no doubt she had been wrongly convicted.

He said: "I think she was treated harshly. Some of the allegations were shocking and some were so absurd as to be unbelievable. Most of the charges were dismissed by the sheriff during the course of the trial and, of the remaining ones, she was found guilty of four.

"The reduced charges amounted to actions like hitting a child over the head with a brush or throwing dirty linen at a child. Now we have got to keep things in proportion. If you are going to criminalise someone for actions like that, you are going to criminalise whole generations of parents and teachers who strapped their children, smacked them with canes, smacked them across the head and what have you. That's different from cruelty."