“FOI reveals church attempt to conceal crimes” & VIDEOS & related articles

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast 03 October 2013

Reporter:   Sashka Koloff

Police records accessed under Freedom of Information laws have revealed that the Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with NSW police to allow it withold information about paedophile priests.

Transcript

TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Police records obtained under Freedom of Information laws have revealed that the Catholic Church was trying to strike an illegal agreement with the New South Wales Police, damaging to investigations of child sex abuse.

The police say the memorandum of understanding was never signed and never in force. But a senior official of the Catholic Church has told Lateline the agreement was in fact operational and the Catholic Church dealt with the police under its provisions. Under the draft agreement, the Church could withhold personnel files from police. That and other provisions were found to be in breach of the Crimes Act.

Steve Cannane has this exclusive report. The producer was Sashka Koloff.

STEVE CANNANE, REPORTER: In recent years the Catholic Church has been accused of covering up child sexual abuse committed by its own clergy.

Now they’re being accused of trying to co-opt NSW Police to help them suppress evidence against paedophile priests.

This draft agreement between police and the Church contains clauses that would allow the Church to withhold evidence from police.

(female voiceover): “Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

GEOFFREY WATSON, BARRISTER: The point is that under our law, you must report it if you become aware of a serious criminal offence and you’ve got to give all the particulars of that. You’ve got to tell the police. When I looked at the MOUs, they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in it.

STEVE CANNANE: This file, accessed under Freedom of Information by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge, documents communications between the Catholic Church and NSW Police over the agreement.

On June 18, 2003, Michael McDonald, executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, wrote to the Child Protection Squad seeking confirmation the agreement was still in place.

MICHAEL MCDONALD, CATHOLIC COMM. FOR EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS (male voiceover): “I, therefore, seek your confirmation that the unsigned Memorandum of Understanding with the police remains in place.”

STEVE CANNANE: In response, Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad makes it clear that no agreement exists.

KIM MCKAY, CHILD PROTECTION SQUAD (female voiceover): “Please note that his draft unsigned MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place. The arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act.”

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE, NSW GREENS MP: Well it appears that the police didn’t sign the MOU, but that’s only one very small part of it. It’s clear from these documents that the Church believed it was in force, at least until the middle of 2003, and its very clear that the police were aware of its existence for that entire period and either knew or would have been culpable in not knowing that the Church were operating under the terms of this MOU. And let’s be clear about it: the MOU said that the Church would not provide crucial documents to the police.

STEVE CANNANE: Michael Salmon was the Catholic’s Church’s point of contact for police. He would not be interviewed on camera, but he confirmed to Lateline the Church operated under the agreement, even though it was not signed.

MICHAEL SALMON, DIRECTOR, PROF. STANDARDS OFFICE, CATHOLIC CHURCH NSW (male voiceover): “The Church assumed it was operational. We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions. We had an understanding from police it was approved. We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

STEVE CANNANE: No-one from NSW Police was available to be interviewed. In a statement, a spokesman said:

STATEMENT FROM NSW POLICE FORCE SPOKESMAN (male voiceover): “The Church continued to cooperate with NSW Police, but it did so without any protections assumed in an MOU, as such protections would not have been valid given the requirements of Section 316 of the Crimes Act. As stated in the letter to the Catholic Church, dated 20 August 2003, the MOU was not approved. The letter also made clear that the proposed arrangements had never been operational at any point.”

STEVE CANNANE: But the Church assumed the agreement was operational and David Shoebridge says it’s unclear how many abuse cases were dealt with under this assumption.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: We don’t know how many sanitised complaints were made by the police under the terms of this MOU and we don’t know the extent to which police were involved in that process for the better part of the decade. But it’s likely that hundreds, if not more than that, cases were processed through this MOU and processed in a way that didn’t protect victims, didn’t assist the police in prosecuting for crimes, but protected the good name of the Church and effectively prevented the police from getting the key evidence to prosecute any accused priest.

STEVE CANNANE: In 2004 another agreement between the police and the Church was drafted, despite previous advice from police that it would breach the Crimes Act. If signed, this agreement would have given even more protection to accused clergy.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: And in that MOU, the Church wanted to effectively give the accused priest a veto power about whether or not to provide crucial information to the police. Utterly extraordinary when you think that that’s less than a decade ago.

STEVE CANNANE: This agreement was prepared by NSW Police, but a police spokesman says it was never considered a workable document and never endorsed.

Steve Cannane, Lateline.

_____________________________________________

Catholic Church tried to strike deal with police over child sexual abuse investigations

ABC Radio Australia

Updated 4 October 2013, 0:10 AEST

The Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with New South Wales Police that would have helped shut down investigations into paedophile priests and placed police in breach of the Crimes Act. Police records, accessed under freedom of information laws, show two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between police and the church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse. Under one of the draft agreements, the church could withhold personnel files from officers. Police say the MOUs were never signed and never in force, but a senior official from the Catholic Church told Lateline the agreement was operational.

The Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with New South Wales Police that would have helped shut down investigations into paedophile priests and placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

Police records, accessed under freedom of information laws by Greens MP David Shoebridge, show two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between police and the church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.

The first agreement, which was unsigned, includes a clause that reads: “Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if required to do so by court order.”

Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC says the agreement would have placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.

“If you become aware of a serious criminal offence, you’ve got to tell the police,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program.

“When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that.”

NSW Police say neither memorandum of understanding was ever signed, or in force.

We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.

Michael Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW

 

But a senior official with the Catholic Church has told Lateline an agreement was operational and the church dealt with police under the provisions of the first draft agreement.

“We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions,” said Michael Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW.

“We had an understanding from police it was approved.

“We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

But NSW Police deny the agreement was ever in place.

In a statement a spokesperson said: “The Church continued to cooperate with NSW Police but it did so without any protections assumed in an MOU, as such protections would not have been valid given the requirements of Section 316 of the Crimes Act.”

Records show two draft agreements were negotiated

The police file shows communications between the church and police about the agreement.

In June 2003 Michael McDonald from the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations wrote to the Child Protection Squad: “I, therefore, seek your confirmation that the unsigned memorandum of understanding with the police remains in place.”

The Catholic Church could not tell Lateline why Mr McDonald was writing to the police, but Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad was unequivocal in her written response to Mr McDonald.

“Please note that his (sic) draft unsigned MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place,” she said.

“The arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act.”

Before this letter was sent by Superintendent McKay, the church was under the assumption the agreement was in place.

Mr Shoebridge wonders how many sexual abuse cases were dealt with under these provisions.

“It’s likely that hundreds, if not more than that were processed through this MOU, and processed in a way that didn’t protect victims, didn’t assist the police in prosecuting for crimes, but protected the good name of the church and effectively prevented the police from getting the key evidence to prosecute any accused priest,” he said.

After Superintendent McKay had made it clear in her letter that the unsigned agreement would have breached the Crimes Act, the church and police started negotiations to draft another agreement.

The second draft agreement, dated August 2004, includes a clause that states: “The Catholic Church or (additional party) shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused’s account of events only if authorised in writing by the accused or if required to do so by court order.”

Mr Shoebridge says the second draft agreement goes even further than the first one.

“The church wanted to effectively give the accused priest a veto power about whether or not to provide crucial information to the police – utterly extraordinary when you think that that’s less than a decade ago.”

This second agreement was prepared by NSW Police, but a police spokesman told Lateline it was never considered a workable document and never endorsed.

_________________________________________

Church tried to strike deals with police to withhold abuse evidence

The Australian

04 October 2013 12:00AM

PIA AKERMAN

THE Catholic Church tried to strike secret agreements with NSW Police a decade ago that would have allowed the organisation to break the law by withholding evidence of the actions of pedophile priests.

Documents released under Freedom of Information laws, obtained by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge and reported on the ABC’s Lateline last night, included clauses that would allow the provision of information regarding an offence “only if required to do so by court order”.

This draft memorandum of understanding from 2003 was never signed by police, who advised the church it appeared to be “in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act 1900”.

The then director of the professional standards office within the church told the ABC the organisation operated as if the MOU was signed and in effect. “The church assumed it was operational,” Michael Salmon said in a statement.

“We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with police under those provisions. We had an understanding from police it was approved. We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

A second MOU in 2004 was devised within NSW Police and included a veto power on evidence for accused pedophile priests. The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan told Lateline the documents appeared to be designed to deal with the “tension” between victims who told their stories to the church on condition of anonymity and the church which was obliged to inform the police.

“These are serious questions … it is extraordinary there would be some veto power for accused priests,” Mr Sullivan said.

Details of the MOU emerged as victims’ advocates rejected proposed reform of the church’s Towards Healing process for dealing with sexual abuse.

In its submission to the royal commission investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse, released this week, the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council foreshadowed changes including the appointment of independent commissioners who would determine payments to victims.

Broken Rites spokesman Wayne Chamley said yesterday the measures were inadequate and the church should instead dump Towards Healing and take legal steps to enable victims to successfully sue for compensation.

“They have had plenty of opportunity to get it right and it has never been right,” Dr Chamley said. “The church has got to vacate the field. If they are genuine they will repeal all the obstacles that currently exist for people going to civil law.”

Church tried to strike deals with police to withhold abuse evidence

Church abuse

Source: Herald Sun

THE Catholic Church tried to strike secret agreements with NSW Police a decade ago that would have allowed the organisation to break the law by withholding evidence of the actions of pedophile priests.

Documents released under Freedom of Information laws, obtained by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge and reported on the ABC’s Lateline last night, included clauses that would allow the provision of information regarding an offence “only if required to do so by court order”.
This draft memorandum of understanding from 2003 was never signed by police, who advised the church it appeared to be “in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act 1900”.
The then director of the professional standards office within the church told the ABC the organisation operated as if the MOU was signed and in effect. “The church assumed it was operational,” Michael Salmon said in a statement.
“We were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with police under those provisions. We had an understanding from police it was approved. We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”
A second MOU in 2004 was devised within NSW Police and included a veto power on evidence for accused pedophile priests. The Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive Francis Sullivan told Lateline the documents appeared to be designed to deal with the “tension” between victims who told their stories to the church on condition of anonymity and the church which was obliged to inform the police.
“These are serious questions … it is extraordinary there would be some veto power for accused priests,” Mr Sullivan said.
Details of the MOU emerged as victims’ advocates rejected proposed reform of the church’s Towards Healing process for dealing with sexual abuse.
In its submission to the royal commission investigating institutional responses to child sexual abuse, released this week, the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council foreshadowed changes including the appointment of independent commissioners who would determine payments to victims.
Broken Rites spokesman Wayne Chamley said yesterday the measures were inadequate and the church should instead dump Towards Healing and take legal steps to enable victims to successfully sue for compensation.
“They have had plenty of opportunity to get it right and it has never been right,” Dr Chamley said. “The church has got to vacate the field. If they are genuine they will repeal all the obstacles that currently exist for people going to civil law.”

– See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/in-depth/call-for-church-to-exit-abuse-victims-process/story-fngburq5-1226732573041#sthash.w0EDW6Vd.dpuf

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