The state’s most senior sex crimes detective has dismissed police whistleblower Peter Fox’s claim that Strike Force Lantle was a sham – describing the comment as “offensive in the extreme” and “detrimental” to the morale of police who investigated allegations of a Catholic Church sexual abuse cover up.
Under cross-examination at the Commission of Inquiry, NSW Sex Crimes Squad manager Detective Inspector Paul Jacob, who provided consultancy to Lantle investigators, said they compiled an “amazing” brief of evidence.
“[It is] offensive and I feel sorry for the police who have invested huge swathes of their time to investigate the matter,” Inspector Jacob said.
He said Inspector Fox’s belief that the investigation should have been given to more senior detectives was unfounded.
“There wouldn’t be many detectives’ offices in the state that didn’t have one historic sex crime investigation done by junior officers and plain clothes,” he said.
The matter was important but non urgent, said Inspector Jacob, who saw not “one bit of reluctance” when it came to investigating clergy abuse.
He said Hunter detectives had an “outstanding record” having charged 14 clergy members with sexual abuse crimes.
Inspector Jacob said the inability by one detective to obtain a vital witness statement was not unusual in historic sex crime matters.
The inquiry heard the witness did not want to give her statement to police because she had developed a rapport with Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy and Inspector Fox who was asked to cease investigating in December 2010.
Inspector Jacob said any close relationship between witness and detective “causes concern” and may skew the investigation and the investigator could lose sight of critical information.
He said the relationship between Ms McCarthy and Inspector Fox was flagged as “a risk that needed to be managed in the investigation”.
The third person to take the stand, former investigations manager for Newcastle Local Area Command and Lantle investigator, Justin Quinn, was asked about his recollection of the December 2, 2010 meeting where Inspector Fox was ordered to cut all contact with Ms McCarthy.
He denied any suggestion from Inspector Fox’s barrister, Mark Cohen, that the meeting was sinister.
“It was a very cordial meeting,” Mr Quinn, who has since left the police force, said.
He rejected Inspector Fox’s version of events that he told Assistant Commission Max Mitchell the victims trusted him and “you can pass those people around like number”.
“Nothing remotely like that was said,” Mr Quinn said.
The inquiry will adjourn after evidence today and return on June 24 when several members of the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic clergy will give evidence.
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