The father of one of James Fletcher’s victims lost his job with the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese when his son made a formal complaint against the paedophile, according to police whistleblower Peter Fox.
Detective Chief Inspector Fox told the special commission of inquiry a Hunter husband and wife suffered reprisals from the clergy during investigation and trial of Fletcher – who was convicted of sexually abusing their son.
The inquiry heard the man told the chief inspector he began to feel “more and more alienated” at the diocese office in Hamilton where he worked in 2002.
“He felt that because he sided with his son he was being made to pay the penalty by the diocese,” Chief Inspector Fox said.
He said the man’s relationship with former Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone deteriorated and priests who he formed working friendships with avoided him.
“He believed the diocese would refuse to renew his contract – which was what ultimately happened – he said they were going to squeeze him out of a job and they didn’t want him there.”
The chief inspector said the victim’s mother felt Bishop Malone’s apology to the family was disingenuous and lacked compassion.
Last week the inquiry heard Bishop Malone contacted the woman in 2002 to let her know he had visited Fletcher and revealed to him that the woman’s son had made a complaint to police.
Before he contacted police, the woman’s son went to a Nelson Bay presbytery drunk and angry, where he yelled about priests doing “filthy things to little boy”.
Chief Inspector Fox said the parish priest, Father Robert Searle, changed his version of the night’s events after an initial conversation with the detective.
Earlier yesterday Chief Inspector Fox was cross-examined over his failure to take statements about the discovery of gay pornography in the Lochinvar presbytery where Fletcher lived.
Last week he told the inquiry a diocesan worker had uncovered pornographic videos and magazines that Fletcher said belonged to a priest, Father Desmond Harrigan who agreed the material was his and he had destroyed it.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, put it to Chief Inspector Fox that he did not interview or question Father Harrigan with an open mind because he had a “preconceived idea that the material belonged to Fletcher”.
Chief Inspector Fox said he did not take a statement from Father Harrigan because it could not be used in the case against Fletcher.
Ms Lonergan told Chief Inspector Fox his handling of the matter was important because it was raised by him as an example that the church destroyed evidence to cover-up paedophilia.
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