25 May 2009

Priest escapes conviction over memorial desecration

3:06 pm on 25 May 2009

A Catholic priest charged over the desecration of a memorial to former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has escaped conviction, having completed a police diversion programme.

Father Gerry Burns smeared a mixture of red paint and a drop of his blood on the Rabin memorial in January while taking part in a protest against Israel's offensive against Palestinians in Gaza.

His protest sparked condemnation from Israeli supporters and Wellington's Catholic Archbishop John Dew apologised for the priest's actions.

Father Burns, who was charged with wilful damage, returned to court on Monday having completed the diversion programme and his case was closed.

As he left court, Father Burns said he was glad the process was over and had no other comment to make.

The diversion scheme offers a chance for first offenders to escape conviction in return for carrying out community service.