The Newcastle Herald journalist awarded for her role in bringing about a royal commission into child sexual abuse has told a special inquiry Peter Fox was more eager to investigate allegations of clergy concealment than other police.
Winner of the Graham Perkin Award, Joanne McCarthy, gave evidence at the Special Commission of Inquiry yesterday for the final week of hearings into the police investigations of alleged sexual abuse cover-ups by the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.
Ms McCarthy said when she spoke to Detective Inspector David Waddell about a potential concealment he was “not wholeheartedly” convinced the matters should be investigated.
“I’m not saying that negatively ... not saying you’re against doing something,” Ms McCarthy told the special inquiry.
Comparatively, she said Detective Chief Inspector Fox jumped hurdles some officers were unable to overcome because they were matters involving the church.
“It’s obvious he [Detective Chief Inspector Fox] had a different approach to some other police ... some of the other police weren’t so keen compared to his keenness.”
She said Detective Inspector Waddell said he “felt sorry” for former Bishop Michael Malone because of his assistance in previous investigations of abuse concealment.
When questioned about an email from Detective Chief Inspector Fox that said, “there’s a few things going on behind the scenes that concern me a bit,” Ms McCarthy said she put two and two together.
“It was obvious we were asking them [the police] a fair bit ... we were entering new territory [in regard to investigations of concealment].”
She said she had passed on victim details to Detective Chief Inspector Fox because of his experience in the prosecution of Denis McAlinden, a convicted paedophile priest, and had heard of his close rapport with the victims.
The special inquiry heard Detective Chief Inspector Fox compiled a report from those contacts that was used in a wider investigation – Strike Force Lantle – in which he had no part.
When Ms McCarthy was contacted by an upset victim who was not happy with the approach taken by one of the strike force investigators, she made a formal complaint to the Police Integrity Commission.
“I wanted the victims to be looked after; I wanted the police to do it in a way that looked after the victims,” Ms McCarthy said.
Earlier in the day, Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Little, the officer in charge of Strike Force Lantle said he was “absolutely mortified” by Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s comments that the investigation had been set up to fail.
He said the chief inspector was operating in secret and was suspected of leaking information to Joanne McCarthy.
He said the investigation had been “leaking like a sieve” and the decision was made “to keep it tight” and limit the number of officers involved.
Ms McCarthy is expected to resume her evidence today.