The Newcastle Herald
May 9, 2013, 11:30 p.m.
A KEY senior figure within the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has warned ‘‘bitter truths are coming’’ for the Church which must continue to work towards healing victims of abuse.
Father Brian Mascord, the diocese’s vicar-general, has distributed a statement to churches and their congregations regarding the Special Commission of Inquiry into the handling of child sex abuse allegations by Newcastle police and the Catholic Church.
‘‘It is possible that allegations of cover-ups and conspiracy may be made against priests and members of the laity [during the inquiry],’’ Father Mascord said.
‘‘Please do not rush to judgment.
‘‘We believe there will be some bitter truths coming. Many of these truths are already known, others may come as fresh revelations, and again be of great concern for all of us.
‘‘As a diocese we will continue to work to ensure the ongoing and future safety of children from all forms of abuse and seek ways to make amends to those who were harmed.’’
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox spent his fourth day in the stand before Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC yesterday. The entire day’s proceedings consisted of Mr Fox being cross-examined by Wayne Roser SC, who is appearing for several senior police officers.
Mr Roser spent much of the day questioning Mr Fox about changing police records to show he had been investigating disgraced former priest Denis McAlinden for longer than he had, and accusing Mr Fox of leaking sensitive police reports to Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy and ABC television journalist Suzie Smith.
Mr Fox rejected those accusations, as well as a persistent line of questioning from Mr Roser that he was running a campaign to undermine the police strikeforce established to investigate abuse cover-up claims.
Mr Fox insisted ‘‘the police had to be dragged kicking and screaming’’ to this investigation, and his continued contact with Ms McCarthy was a result of police failing to act on the vast amounts of information and witnesses she had.
Earlier in the day, Mr Fox came under fire for a message he sent via Twitter after proceedings closed on Wednesday. The tweet contained information which had been suppressed by Commissioner Cunneen.
Mr Roser said the tweet was ‘‘not only inappropriate, it was against the ruling of this commission’’.
Mr Fox rejected the claim, saying his tweet did not identify any individual.
He deleted the tweet several minutes after it was posted on the advice of his own legal representative.
It was also announced yesterday a key witness, Superintendent Charles Haggett, would be excused from taking the stand at the inquiry on medical grounds.
The inquiry is investigating the way in which police and the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese handled allegations of child sexual abuse by former priests James Fletcher and Denis McAlinden.
The inquiry will today enter its fifth day of hearings at Newcastle. The hearing will continue until next Friday before breaking, then resuming for a three-week hearing from June 24.
Whistleblower cop axed, abuse probe told
Updated May 7, 2013, 5:19 pm
By Doug Conway, AAP Senior Correspondent, AAP
Whistleblower cop Peter Fox was axed from investigating alleged child sex abuse by priests in the NSW Hunter region, despite his protests that victims had been through hell and he’d promised them he’d follow through.
Subsequently, he breached an order not to contact a journalist because he felt it was a sinister move designed to sabotage the investigations.
Detective Chief Inspector Fox, who has alleged a “Catholic mafia” of police and others tried to cover up the clergy’s pedophilia in the NSW Hunter Valley, told an inquiry in Newcastle on Tuesday he was ordered off the case at a “hostile” meeting in December 2010.
Superintendent Max Mitchell, now an assistant commissioner, had made it clear to him that he would have no role in “any way, shape or form” in a new investigation.
But Insp Fox said the new probe was a sham he believed was “set up to fail”, and the meeting confirmed his suspicion that some senior police were effectively trying to “sabotage” the investigations.
He said Supt Mitchell told him to hand over all statements and documents, which he did, and to have no further contact with Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.
But he said Ms McCarthy had more information than police and her input was the “genesis” of the whole police inquiry.
He breached the order not to contact her by sending her an email that night in which he outlined his removal from the case and said “the pricks can shove it”.
“I make no apology for it,” he told the inquiry.
“I felt the direction was motivated by other factors that weren’t honest and were corrupt.”
Insp Fox said he was also told not to contact any witnesses.
But he had protested: “These people have been through hell. They trusted me and I promised them I would follow through. I spent 28 hours taking a statement from one woman. We can’t treat her like garbage.”
He said Supt Mitchell, who is yet to give evidence, conceded that Insp Fox should at least be allowed to let the witness know he had been ordered off the case.
Special Commissioner Margaret Cunneen is investigating the circumstances in which Insp Fox was asked to stop probing certain matters.
The inquiry is concentrating on two priests – serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted pedophile Father James Fletcher, both now dead.
In July, Commissioner Cunneen will also examine the extent to which Catholic church officials co-operated with police, including whether any investigation was hindered by failure to report criminal offences.
Three senior Catholic officials will testify – current Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, who held senior positions in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in the 1980s and early 90s, retired bishop of the diocese Michael Malone, and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference secretary Father Brian Lucas.
The inquiry’s amended terms of reference include provisions to share information with the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse subsequently ordered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Commissioner Cunneen is due to report to the NSW government by September 30.