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THE late night email set out how to wipe email trails and mask mobile calls to keep it secret. But the contact between Peter Fox and Joanne McCarthy was bound to be exposed.

As relationships go, this one has caused a lot of trouble – to the police, to the Catholic Church, to the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and even to the Prime Minister. Now it’s all being laid bare in the Newcastle Supreme Court.

Newcastle Herald journalist McCarthy is being grilled in the witness box of the special inquiry into how police and Catholic Church priests and officials handled allegations of sexual abuse in the NSW Hunter Region. The inquiry was set up by the NSW Premier after whistleblower policeman Peter Fox went on ABC’s Lateline last November alleging a cover up. The Prime Minister called a separate royal commission on child sexual abuse days later.

The royal commission is well into its task of hearing victims’ stories in private but at the NSW inquiry just now, the victims are largely sidelined as anonymous sets of initials. The focus for the best part of two days now has been on what McCarthy knew, how she knew it, and whether and why she sought to conceal her relationship with Peter Fox.

So yes, according to the evidence, in November last year Peter Fox sent Newcastle Herald journalist McCarthy an internal police document on his investigation so far and where he thought it should go next. She passed up his invitation to correct or amend it.

Yes, she knew that he was withholding from his police colleagues the statements he had taken from two victims who were the subject of a new investigation which excluded Fox. No, McCarthy didn’t think it her place to tell the police about it.

No, she had no arrangement with Fox not to keep the witness statements secret. No, she had never referred to him as “her police officer”. So why did Fox send her an internal police document which was highly critical of police? Wayne Roser SC, barrister for a posse of police, wanted to know.

“I think by that stage I was a kind of a sounding board to him…He wants to keep me in the loop.” Both of them were having their emails to police ignored, so “possibly we were both feeling the same way.”

“Possibly he was feeling a little but lonely and isolated at that point, so the caring ear of a journalist…I don’t know,” she said.

Please enable Javascript to watch this videoThe courtroom laughed at the concept of a journalist’s caring ear. Even so, McCarthy has repeatedly asserted that her prime motivation was to get police to seriously investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Catholic church in the Hunter region, and to ensure the victims with whom she was in contact were treated well.

Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy leaves Newcastle supreme court on Tuesday with Barrister Winston Terracini. Picture Darren Pateman

Ms McCarthy’s evidence continues.

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