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Police reviewing 20-year-old allegation against bishop

Police in Newfoundland and Labrador say they're reviewing an allegation that Raymond Lahey - a Roman Catholic bishop facing child-pornography charges in Ontario - possessed child pornography more than 20 years ago.

Billy Earle told CBC on Thursday that his brother Shane saw child pornography in the Mount Pearl, N.L., home of Mr. Lahey in 1985.

Constable Paul Davis of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Friday investigators became aware of Mr. Earle's allegation on Thursday and immediately began a review.

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"We became aware of this information late yesterday (Thursday), minutes before the first broadcast and we immediately began a review to determine if the information is accurate," he said in the statement sent by e-mail.

Const. Davis said police are reviewing audio and video records of interviews with "victims and offenders" from their investigation of sex abuse allegations at the Mount Cashel orphanage, including those of Billy and Shane Earle.

"We are continuing to review our files, audio and video records of interviews with victims and offenders including those of William and Shane Earle and so far have not located any evidence to support the allegations made by Mr. William Earle purportedly on behalf of his brother Shane," he said. "We will continue our search in effort to locate any record."

During a public inquiry into abuse at Mount Cashel in October 1989, Shane Earle - a former resident of the orphanage - testified he saw something in Mr. Lahey's home as a teenager that disturbed him and caused his hospitalization for depression.

The inquiry heard that the incident happened in 1985 at Mr. Lahey's home. Mr. Earle said he lost control after spotting something in the house, but at that point inquiry lawyer Clayton Powell quickly warned him not to mention what he had seen.

"I remember I was in the house by myself, I got very upset and took some vitamin pills," Mr. Earle testified. "I wasn't acting very sensible."

Neither Shane nor Billy Earle could be reached for comment on Friday. Shane Earle's lawyer during the inquiry has also refused comment.

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Mr. Powell, who is now a lawyer in London, Ont., said Friday he had "no recollection" of cutting Mr. Earle off during his testimony.

He said it was possible he advised Mr. Earle not to say what he saw at Mr. Lahey's home because it didn't relate specifically to Mount Cashel, but Mr. Powell said he couldn't be sure.

Mr. Lahey served as bishop for the archidocese of Antigonish, N.S., for six years before resigning last weekend. Before that, the 69-year-old was a bishop in Newfoundland and Labrador.

His laptop and other media devices were seized by border guards when he was returning to Canada at the Ottawa airport on Sept. 15. Ottawa police charged him with possession and importing child pornography on Sept. 25 after a forensic investigation found images that police say were of "concern."

He surrendered to police on Thursday in Ottawa and was released on bail until a court appearance on Nov. 4.

Mr. Lahey's lawyer could not be reached for comment on Billy Earle's allegation. A spokesman for Archbishop Martin Currie of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of St. John's said he would not comment beyond a statement he issued on Thursday.

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"We now must wait for this matter to work its way through the court process," Mr. Currie said in a letter that priests across the province have been invited to read on the weekend.

In his testimony to the public inquiry, Shane Earle said senior officials of the Christian Brothers at Mount Cashel - including Mr. Lahey while he was still a priest - were told about sex involving boys and brothers at the orphanage.

Mr. Earle said he told Mr. Lahey that he had seen a brother having sex with several boys and the priest told him he had recommended to a member of the order's executive council in Toronto that the brother be removed from the orphanage, which was run by the Roman Catholic lay order for decades.

Weeks after his conversation with Mr. Lahey, the brother left the orphanage, said Mr. Earle, whose allegations sparked the inquiry into Mount Cashel by retired Ontario judge Samuel Hughes.

Mr. Earle said he told the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary earlier in 1989 about his conversation with Mr. Lahey.

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