The Newcastle Herald journalist at the centre of a Hunter child sex abuse inquiry said police did not act immediately on documents that revealed the church had warned paedophile priest Denis McAlinden about interfering with children.
Joanne McCarthy said she gave internal church documents that warned McAlinden – one of two priests being investigated by the Special Commission of Inquiry into an alleged child abuse cover-up by the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese – to police.
During cross-examination from her counsel, Winston Terracini SC, Ms McCarthy said the material included a confession from priest Brian Lucas who said he was aware McAlinden had sexually abused children.
“Was there any attempt by the police at this point to interview Lucas?” Mr Terracini asked.
Ms McCarthy replied: “No”.
Ms McCarthy agreed with Mr Terracini’s suggestion the material “tends to indicate the systemic protection of paedophiles”.
“They [the church] are telling him if he [McAlinden] didn’t do it the church’s way the police would be involved and bring disgrace on everyone – if that isn’t trying to protect a paedophile, I don’t know what is,” Mr Terracini said.
He asked: “The priest Lucas knew that McAlinden had been interfering with children and the priest did nothing about it?”.
Ms McCarthy replied: “Yes”.
Ms McCarthy denied that she colluded with Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox to withhold information from officers involved in Strike Force Lantle – the 2010 investigation into allegations of sexual abuse concealment by the church.
She said she did not hand over victim details because she was concerned about the treatment of a victim who had complained about the approach from police while taking her statement.
After her evidence, Ms McCarthy told a waiting media scrum she was looking forward to the next stage of the special commission that would hear from members of the Hunter clergy.
“As difficult as inquiries into these kinds of issues can be, they are important issues. It is worth noting some of the most significant media investigations and police prosecutions involving Catholic clergy in Australia have occurred in the Hunter region,” Ms McCarthy said.
Second to take the stand, Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey, Crime Manager of Newcastle Local Area Command at the time of the investigation, asked to amend parts of his affidavit relating to Detective Chief Inspector Fox and apologised to the whistleblower.
“A lot of evidence is not relevant and not fair to him,” Detective Chief Inspector Humphrey said, noting he had no animosity toward Detective Chief Inspector Fox and believed he was a “good detective”.
He said Detective Chief Inspector Fox was never cut out of Strike Force Lantle but was not consulted on day one because the investigation needed “a fresh set of eyes”.
Detective Chief Inspector Humphrey said the investigation was appointed outside of Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s command and it made no sense for him to have a major role but it was intended that he be consulted.
The inquiry continues.