NSW child sexual abuse inquiry finds evidence to charge senior Catholic Church official

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Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 30/05/2014

Reporter: Jason Om

An inquiry into child sexual abuse in NSW has found there’s enough evidence to charge a senior Catholic Church official with concealing the activities of a notorious peadophile.

Transcript

EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: An inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Hunter region of NSW has found there is enough evidence to charge a senior Catholic Church official with concealing the activities of a notorious paedophile priest.

The Special Commission into abuse allegations and their alleged cover-up in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese has delivered its final report calling the failure of clergy to report decades of abuse to police as inexcusable.

But it has also slammed the credibility of the detective chief inspector who sparked the inquiry finding him to be an unsatisfactory and at times untruthful witness.

Inspector Peter Fox had accused senior police of hindering sex abuse investigations but the commission says NSW police acted appropriately.

Jason Om reports.

JASON OM, REPORTER: For the many victims of abuse in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, there is a sense of vindication.

PETER GOGARTY, ABUSE VICTIM: This was not just the wrongdoing of individual priests that those priests were assisted in their crimes, if you like, by virtue of the fact that other people knew about it and did nothing.

JASON OM: About 50 people provided disturbing evidence about their suffering at the hands of paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher. Both are now dead.

The inquiry headed by Margaret Cunneen SC investigated allegations of a cover-up by the church and by New South Wales police.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox blew the whistle accusing senior officers of forcing him to drop his inquiries into abuse.

(EXTRACT FROM NOVEMBER, 2012 LATELINE INTERVIEW)

PETER FOX, DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR: I am sure that some hierarchy in the police force won’t be wanting to put me on their Christmas card list after the letter today and after speaking here tonight. I don’t care.

JASON OM: The commission has found failures and inaction in the diocese and elsewhere to report child sexual abuse to police. And a failure to protect children.

However, the diocese did cooperate when requested by police.

On the alleged police cover-up, the commission found Strike Force Lantle set up to investigate claims of abuse cover-up by the church was not a sham that was set up to fail, as claimed by Peter Fox.

Peter Fox was initially carrying out his own clandestine and later competing inquiries despite being told to drop them.

He also rejected claims of a “Catholic Mafia” within the police force. The commission says police acted lawfully and appropriately.

PETER GOGARTY: The detective that was in charge of Strike Force Lantle has done an outstanding job, I think.

JASON OM: Officials in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese knew about Denis McAlinden’s abuse of children from 1954. His victims were in New South Wales, Western Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

But;

(EXTRACT FROM SPECIAL COMMISSION REPORT)

VOICEOVER: It took more than 40 years for the diocese to report to police any aspect of McAlinden’s offending history. The evidence reveals a disturbing story of repeated inaction and failure on the part of church officials.

JASON OM: Among the officials criticised, the late head of the diocese, Bishop Leo Clarke, whose inaction, the report says, was inexcusable. The inaction of the late Monsignor Patrick Cotter also inexcusable. Current priest Monsignor Allan Hart, who knew about the abuse, and should have reported it to police. His credibility as a witness was found to be unsatisfactory.

Father Brian Lucas, who at the time was responsible for persuading accused sex abusers to quit the priesthood, his inaction the report says;

(EXTRACT FROM SPECIAL COMMISSION REPORT)

VOICEOVER: Failed to have proper regard to what should have been the overriding consideration – the protection of children.

JASON OM: Brian Lucas is now the general secretary of the Catholic Church’s peak body, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

PETER GOGARTY: I think his position really is untenable.

JASON OM: And the head of the diocese from 1995-2011, Bishop Michael Malone, who, despite knowing Denis McAlinden’s file was “So big you can’t jump over it” did not report him to police until 1999.

The report found Bishop Malone was in consistent in his evidence about how he dealt with another paedophile priest, James Fletcher. His response to abuse claims were inadequate and underestimated their seriousness. He was also found to have acted inappropriately by alerting James Fletcher to a police investigation.

PATRICIA FEENAN, MOTHER OF ABUSE VICTIM: I always reflected on how would it have gone if that priest didn’t have all that time to character assassinate us and certainly my son.

JASON OM: The findings have been made public in three volumes but a fourth volume on Fletcher remains confidential. The inquiry says;

(EXTRACT FROM SPECIAL COMMISSION REPORT)

VOICEOVER: There is sufficient evidence warranting the prosecution of a senior church official in connection with the concealment of child sexual abuse relating to Fletcher.

PETER GOGARTY: I think we are going to have to be very patient in waiting to see what the NSW police and the Department of Public Prosecutions do with that information but I honestly believe that it will be worth the wait.

JASON OM: The commission has effectively cleared NSW police of cover-up allegations by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox. Saying he was obsessed about the Catholic Church and alleged conspiracies involving senior police. At times the report says he was untruthful, prone to exaggerate and in consistent in his evidence.

PETER FOX, DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR: I am not backing away from any of the things I said either on the Lateline program or in my letter to the Premier. They are the two things that triggered everything and I don’t think anywhere through the special commission anything that I said in those documents has been cast into any sort of doubt.

JASON OM: The commission found Peter Fox had been carrying out inquiries in secret and had acted inappropriately by disclosing police information to Newcastle journalist Joanne McCarthy.

Despite the findings, Peter Fox is defiant.

PETER FOX: I still stand by everything I said in the letter to the premier Barry O’Farrell and in the interview with Tony Jones and none of that has been disproven.

JASON OM: Some of Peter Fox’s evidence has been referred to the Royal Commission into abuse for assessment. The Catholic Church and the NSW police have declined to be interviewed saying they will review the report in due course.

The confidential section will be referred to the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions who will decide whether charges should be laid against the church official whose name has been suppressed.

Jason Om, Lateline.

2 Responses to NSW child sexual abuse inquiry finds evidence to charge senior Catholic Church official

  1. Sylvia says:

    Oh my goodness – deja vu! This is truly shades of Cornwall and the raking “they” gave Perry Dunlop for blowing the whistle down there. Perhaps Peter Fox’ one saving grace is that “they” didn’t have a few years to malign and denigrate and vilify him before the inquiry as they did Perry.

    The bottom line is that it was thanks to Fox blowing the whistle that this inquiry became a reality, right?

    And there’s the mother of the victim talking about all the time the priest had to character assassinate her son.

    All so eerily familiar.

    True, I don’t know all the ins and outs of the situation as I do Cornwall, but seems to me Fox was right in smelling a rat, and now by the grace of God some heads might – just might – roll.

    The report is out. It’s huge – too large for me to post in three volumes as is. Here are links to three volumes:

    Vol. 1: http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/163924/Report_-_Volume_1_-_Hunter_Special_Commission_of_Inquiry.pdf
    Vol. 2: http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/163922/Report_-_Volume_2_-_Hunter_Special_Commission_of_Inquiry.pdf
    Vol. 3. http://www.dpc.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/163923/Report_-_Volume_3_-_Hunter_Special_Commission_of_Inquiry.pdf

    It looks like it’s about 700 pages or more all up. When I have time I may be able to sort out a way to put the report on Sylvia’s Site.

  2. Marion says:

    So many “priests”are too old to touch or to even serve the penalty they deserve. The Roman Catholic has a very perverse, sick and powerful control on their victims, families and also in many cases on the police and governments (using the very money parishioners give them worldwide). We are watching what Pope Francis will do. He has earned the respect of many in his little time as Pope.
    With respect to Mount Cashel, not just Cornwall, we see the same control….one group covers up another and the victims are powerless and maligned….
    I can still hear words ringing in my ears from years ago….”How dare we accuse the ‘holy, catholic church…we will burn in hell who do”. I think they will be surprised when they see who is in hell. How their words paralyzed our minds and placed false guilt on us. With fearful authority and power they taught us – demanding to know what we were doing (by confessions) while they themselves did the unthinkable and unimaginable. The abused have endured hell and purgatory here on earth from these diabolical predators.
    We can be so grateful for the whistle blowers who sacrifice their lives to bring the truth forward as they surely know that the political hierarchy is ruthless behind the facade of holiness and righteousness.

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