The Sydney Morning Herald
The senior detective who triggered an inquiry into the handling of allegations of child sex abuse by Hunter Valley priests faces a possible contempt charge.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has until May 24 to explain a social media message he sent from the courtroom during the special commission of inquiry on Monday.
The commission, which began in Newcastle six days ago, is focusing on how police and church officials handled child sex allegations, particularly those involving serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted pedophile Father James Fletcher, who are both dead.
It is also looking into how Insp Fox was stopped from investigating such matters and his allegations of church officials covering up crimes.
Barrister Patrick Saidi, representing several high-ranking NSW officers, told Special Commissioner Margaret Cunneen after Monday’s lunch break that Insp Fox had tweeted a message earlier in the day that was inconsistent with evidence.
Mr Saidi asked the commissioner to bar tweeting while commission sessions were under way and to refer the matter to the Crown Solicitor’s office for consideration of a contempt charge against Inspector Fox.
The tweet said Hunter Valley Detective Inspector David Waddell had tried in 2010 to close down a police strike force investigating sex abuse allegations involving Catholic priests, Mr Saidi said.
Ms Cunneen said the tweet was “undignified conduct, inaccurate and misleading” as Insp Waddell’s evidence was that he was scaling down a particular strike force, and it was not the strike force mentioned in the commission’s terms of reference.
She told Insp Fox she hoped his tweeting during sessions would not be repeated and gave his barrister until May 24 to make a written submission before she decided whether or not to contact the Crown Solicitor’s office.
Insp Waddell was the officer in charge of overseeing allegations of child sexual abuse in 2010 by Hunter Valley Catholic priests.
In evidence earlier in the day, he denied saying there was no prospect of convicting anyone of covering up the crimes.
Inspector Waddell said he “definitely” made no such comment to a sex abuse investigations officer under his command.
The inquiry had heard details of an email sent on May 20, 2010, from state sex crimes squad Detective Insp Paul Jacobs to Detective Brad Tayler.
“From what I understand from Dave Waddell, although this inquiry/assessment may have to be handled with diplomacy there is no prospect of any criminal investigation outcomes as key persons (that is the offender and decision maker within the church) are both deceased,” Det Insp Jacobs wrote in the email.
The commission hearing continues on Tuesday.
Police ‘not concerned’ about clergy’s reputation
Updated May 13, 2013, 7:37 pm
By Dan Cox, ABC
A senior New South Wales policeman has denied being concerned about the reputation of senior Catholic clergy in the Hunter Valley when deciding not to investigate some child sexual abuse allegations.
Detective Inspector Dave Waddell has given evidence at the Special Commission of Inquiry.
He was the crime manager at the Lake Macquarie Local Area Command near Newcastle when Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox claims he was told to stop investigating child sexual abuse by two priests in the area.
Detective Inspector Waddell said the claims were important and serious but not urgent.
The court heard he denies telling local journalist Joanne McCarthy he felt sorry for former Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Bishop Michael Malone.
He said “the reputation of senior clergy was not a consideration”.
The inquiry has heard staffing issues may have led to the Sex Crimes Squad not being able to investigate Catholic priests.
Det Insp Waddell told the court that Detective Inspector Paul Jacob from the Sex Crime Squad told him the squad would not be able to assist at the time but could provide consultancy.
He said that could be because of “staffing issues or other ongoing investigations”.
Det Insp Waddell denied telling Det Insp Jacob the matter “needed to be handled with diplomacy”.
He also denied saying there was no prospect of any criminal investigation as key people were deceased.
Det Insp Waddell told the court he refuted claims he told local Fairfax journalist Joanne McCarthy that it was difficult to prosecute the concealment of serious crimes.
He said previous strike forces had charged people with perverting the course of justice.
The senior policeman said he forwarded allegations of concealment to Newcastle’s Local Area Command because “they needed to be looked at”.
Det Chief Inspector Peter Fox has been chastised by the Commissioner for an “inaccurate and misleading” tweet about today’s proceedings.
The inquiry continues.