Cross-questioning: Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy leaves court. Photo: Darren Pateman Peter Fox at his home. His links to a journalist are being examined in the Newcastle Supreme Court. Photo: Peter Stoop
One of the Australian Catholic Church’s most senior figures, Father Brian Lucas, confessed in an internal church document that he knew the disgraced paedophile priest Father Denis McAlinden had been “interfering with children” but he had done nothing about it.
Fairfax Media reporter Joanne McCarthy told the inquiry into church and police handling of sexual abuse in the Hunter region that documents handed to her by a victim, known as AL, indicated the systematic protection of paedophiles within the church.
Father Lucas’ confession was contained in documents that then bishop of Maitland-Newcastle diocese Michael Malone had authorised be released.
In 1993 Father Lucas had known of McAlinden’s abuse of a girl aged under 10, seperate evidence tendered to the inquiry alleges. That evidence also states that two years later McAlinden was defrocked in secret.
On Tuesday afternoon the inquiry heard that McCarthy gave the documents to a NSW detective, Shaun McCleod, in April 2010.
“The material that the police had obviously shows on the face of it an intention to alert McAlinden … if that isn’t trying to protect a paedophile, I don’t know what is,” McCarthy’s barrister, Winston Terracini, SC, suggested to her.
“Yes, I agree,” McCarthy said.
“The priest Lucas knew that McAlinden had been interfering with children and the priest did nothing about it’?”
“Yes,” McCarthy responded. Father Lucas is now general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Earlier on Tuesday Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey told the inquiry he had been wrong to state Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox had been repeatedly asked to supply information from his investigations to a strike force set up towards the end of 2010 and apologised for the inaccuracy to Chief Inspector Fox. Chief Inspector Humphrey said there had been no attempt to shut Chief Inspector Fox out of the investigation as the latter has alleged, but that a “fresh set of eyes” was needed. He emphasised his view that Chief Inspector Fox’s material would be important to the new strike force.
Much of the inquiry’s focus this week has been on the relationship between McCarthy and Chief Inspector Fox. McCarthy has agreed the latter sent her an internal police document about his investigation and invited her to correct or amend it, which she didn’t. She also agreed she knew he had withheld witness statements from the new strike force, but said she didn’t see it as her place to tell police.
McCarthy denied referring to him as “her police officer”. So why did Fox send her an internal police document that was highly critical of police?
“Possibly he was feeling a little bit lonely and isolated at that point, so the caring ear of a journalist … I don’t know,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy has repeatedly asserted that her prime motivation was to get police to seriously investigate allegations of sexual abuse.
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