This time it’s in Oz.
A senior serving police officer has alleged the Catholic Church covers up crimes of paedophile priests, silences investigations and destroys crucial evidence to avoid prosecutions.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has spent more than 30 years as an investigator and has been at the centre of major police operations in the Newcastle-Hunter region of New South Wales.
He has , calling for a Royal Commission into child sex abuse within the Catholic Church.
Mirroring police evidence given to the Victorian inquiry into the Catholic Church launched this year, he says in his letter: “Many police are frustrated by this sinister behaviour which will continue until someone stops it.”
“I can testify from my own experience that the church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the church. None of that stops at the Victorian border.”
Abuse statistics for the Newcastle-Maitland diocese paint an ugly picture: 400 known victims of child sexual abuse by clergy 11 clergy charged and convicted since 1995 6 Catholic teachers convicted since 1995 3 priests currently on trial First priest charged this year with concealing the crimes of another 12 priests involved in substantial compensation claims Highest known compensation payout to a victim - $3 million
Two police strike forces are investigating whether church officials were involved in covering up crimes.
Not all clergy are fully cooperating with police, however the Premier has repeatedly said police have the investigation under control.
But Chief Inspector Fox believes police prosecutions on their own cannot deal with the Catholic Church’s structures and systems for reporting abuse.
“In many cases that I came across, one priest who had previously faced paedophile charges was donating parish money to the legal support of another priest to defend himself from those charges,” he told Lateline.
"I had other priests that hadn’t been charged with anything removing evidence and destroying it before we were able to secure it, and we just went around in circles.
“The greatest frustration is that there is so much power and organisation behind the scenes that police don’t have the powers to be able to go in and seize documents and have them [the church] disclose things to us.”
Chief Inspector Fox says he has “definite information” of alleged cover-ups by a number of diocese bishops.
“It potentially goes even higher than that,” he said.
Chief Inspector Fox was responsible for the conviction of paedophile priest Father Jim Fletcher, who had not been stood down or removed from contact with children during the police investigation.
Also, he encountered alleged serious issues of cover-up in his investigation of another priest, Father Denis McAlinden.
The priest had arrived in Australia from Ireland in 1949 and for four decades he was transferred from parish to parish, and even outside Australia.
The NSW Department of Public Prosecutions is now looking at whether McAlinden’s crimes were covered up by three senior members of the clergy, including the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops conference, Brian Lucas, the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson and former bishop of Newcastle, Michael Malone.
Chief Inspector Fox was in the middle of investigating this matter in 2010 when he was directed to hand over all his evidence to other officers, including a statement from a critical witness.
He says the statement was “explosive”.
“When I was directed to hand that statement over I described her statement as … explosive. And I still describe that statement as explosive,” he said.
“What is disclosed in that is monumental.”
Chief Inspector Fox says police have sent brief papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions, which are being considered.
He says an archbishop, a bishop and a priest have been implicated in alleged cover-up.
Northern Region Commander Assistant Commissioner Carlene York told Lateline that Chief Inspector Fox was directed to hand over his work because of a new taskforce in a different Local Area Command (LAC).
“Strike Force Lantle was established to ensure that a thorough and coordinated investigation was undertaken in relation to the allegations raised,” she said. Â
"At that time, Detective Chief Inspector Fox was a crime manager at Port Stephens Local Area Command and was informed the strike force would be fully investigating the allegations.
"The strike force was undertaken by detectives from the Local Area Command responsible for the investigation, that being Newcastle City.
“It would be unusual for a crime manager from a neighbouring LAC to work on a Strike Force in another LAC.”
Chief Inspector Fox says a Royal Commission into allegations of abuse and cover-up within the Catholic Church is needed.
“There’s so much that the police force can’t do. We don’t have power,” he said.
Lateline asked the NSW Premier for a specific response to Chief Inspector Fox’s letter to him.
His spokesman said police investigations are ongoing and Mr O’Farrell will not interfere with that.
“The best result is successful prosecutions and no-one should keep these offences secret,” the spokesman said.