Category Archives: Father Vincent Ryan
NSW police warned of a possible Catholic Church paedophile network as early as 2004
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
EMMA ALBERICI, REPORTER: The New South Wales special commission of inquiry into clerical abuse in the Hunter region has heard that police were warned of the danger of a possible paedophile ring as far back as 2004.
A NSW police force intelligence document was tendered in a statement by the head of the New South Wales Sex Crimes unit, Superintendent John Kerlatec.
The document also named three priests as part of a possible conspiracy and said that the Catholic Church had required a victim to “sign a deed” promising they would not pursue civil or criminal actions.
John Kerlatec also told the inquiry that an internal police email showed there was no great urgency in the handling of child sexual abuse allegations in the Hunter region
Suzie smith reports from Newcastle
SUZIE SMITH, REPORTING: Today was the fifth day of the special commission and on the stand an unwilling witness detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, the head of the New South Wales Sex Crimes squad.
DCI Fox’s legal counsel, Mark Cohen showed the Commander an internal police email dated early May 2010. John Kerlatec admitted it revealed there was little urgency from a senior officer to investigate serious allegations of child sexual abuse cover-up.
(EXTRACT FROM COURT TRANSCRIPT)
MARK COHEN, BARRISTER, PETER FOX LEGAL COUNSEL (VOICEOVER): What it the case that the genesis of this matter was attracting very little urgency… there was not a lot of urgency being exhibited was there…?
JOHN KERLATEC, DET SUPERINTENDENT, NSW POLICE FORCE (VOICEOVER): No not from the contents of this report.
SUZIE SMITH: In further testimony, John Kerlatec agreed with counsel Mark Cohen that it appeared the officer, inspector Dave Waddell was trying to shut down the investigation. As part of John Kerlatec’s evidence, several confidential police intelligence reports and documents were tendered to the commission. They reveal that in 2004, police were investigating a possible paedophile network operating within the Catholic clergy in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese. The investigation focused on three priests, Father Guy Hartcher, Father James Fletcher, now deceased and father Vincent Ryan.
The intelligence report states:
(EXTRACT FROM NSW POLICE SERVICE INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION SYSTEM)
Priest (PO3) was committing similar offences against young boys at the same time as Priest (PO2) in a neighbouring parish. Priest (PO3) had been convicted with 30 victims.
SUZIE SMITH: The intelligence report also shows that these two priests were allegedly swapping male pornographic videos, but that evidence had been destroyed.
The priest known as P01 had been charged with child sex offences in 1994. The report says the Catholic Church paid a victim and made him sign a deed not to pursue any further criminal or civil actions.
In another police internal memorandum dated the 13th May 2011 the then manager of the Sex Crimes squad Paul Jacob said senior members of the Catholic clergy and employees of the Catholic Church must be interviewed. He also expressed some urgency due to adverse media comment.
This bundle of internal police documents shows that the then crime manager of the Sex Crimes unit, Paul Jacob, received a call from the solicitor representing Archbishop of Adelaide, Phillip Wilson in May 2011. He wanted to know whether the Archbishop was under police investigation. Paul Jacob then contacted the head of Newcastle police, Brad Taylor and asked him to call the solicitor with the following information.
(EXTRACT FROM EMAIL BY PAUL JOCOB TO BRAD TAYLOR)
G’day Brad, would you please contact him re this matter. From what I understand from Dave Waddell although this inquiry assessment may have to be handled with diplomacy, there is no prospect of any criminal investigation as key persons (ie the offender and the decision maker within the church) are both deceased.
SUZIE SMITH: The officer who sparked this commission of inquiry, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox has finally finished being cross-examined. DCI Fox says five days in the witness box has been tough but he’s glad he sparked the inquiry.
PETER FOX, DET CHIEF INSPECTOR, NSW POLICE: I knew this was going to be a rough time. I didn’t expect I would be given an easy time and many things will be put to me and I’m sure there will be more. But I’ve still got no reservations whatsoever about what I’ve said.
SUZIE SMITH: Next week the inquiry will hear from the Newcastle ‘Herald’ journalist, Joanne McCarthy and many more senior police.
Suzie Smith, Lateline.
The unholy conspiracy
Will an inquiry into decades of child sex abuse in Australia and alleged cover-ups by the Catholic Church serve justice?
In late 2012, Australia was rocked by fresh allegations of Catholic clergy child sex abuse by whistleblower, New South Wales Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.
Fox has pursued allegations of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy for more than a decade, and he claims that as his investigations continued, a frightening picture emerged of a widespread cover-up by the Catholic Church of the child sex crimes committed by its clergy.
Fox repeated those claims publicly, and also accused the Catholic Church of deliberately obstructing police investigations, destroying evidence, and protecting paedophile priests, sparking calls for a national inquiry.
At the same time as Fox’s investigation, The Newcastle Herald’s senior journalist Joanne McCarthy, had also picked up the scent of a wider conspiracy by senior church officials to conceal sex abuse by its clergy.
Searching for clues – Joanne delved into the case of Father Vincent Ryan – a paedophile priest convicted in 1996.
Her first discovery was a police record of interview with Monsignor Patrick Cotter, who was Maitland’s acting Bishop in the 1970s.
She was stunned to learn Cotter had known for 20 years that Ryan was a paedophile, and that when it was first reported to him by parents of a victim – he had simply shunted the priest interstate – concealing the issue, rather than reporting it to the police.
She then discovered another bishop’s letter, outlining a plan to cover-up the crimes of one of the most dangerous paedophile priests in the Maitland-Newcastle area, Father Denis McAlinden.
Bishop Leo Clarke wrote to McAlinden with an offer – if he agreed to be laicised or, defrocked as a priest, the church would protect him: “Your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process.”
At the end of his letter, Bishop Clark urged McAlinden to agree to be defrocked because “some people are threatening seriously to take this whole matter to the police”.
The offer to conceal McAlinden’s crimes was proof of the church’s veil of secrecy and soon Joanne ascertained that the clergy members involved were amongst the most senior in the Australian Catholic church.
Now, a special commission of inquiry has been set-up by the New South Wales state government to determine whether their actions amounted to criminal conduct. The special government-appointed inquiry, known in Australia as a Royal Commission, has also been charged with investigating how the NSW police force handled the complaints.
The trigger for the Royal Commission came in July last year, when John Pirona, a 45-year-old firefighter in the city of Newcastle, ended his life after years of mental torment stemming from the sex abuse that he suffered as a child at the hands of a paedophile priest.
The abuse occurred at St Pius X High School, a Catholic boys’ school in Newcastle. Pirona’s suicide followed about a dozen suicides and many more attempted suicides by former students at the school. Shockingly, many people reported the abuse to the school principal who kept silent, punishing children who dared to complain.
As the impact of John Pirona’s suicide reverberated throughout the community, demands for a Royal Commission gained new impetus and in Newcastle, a public rally was held to boost the campaign.
Detective Peter Fox was at the rally and felt inspired to speak out about his struggle to expose crimes concealed by the church. Emboldened by speaking at the rally, he repeated his claims two months later on national television.
Four days later, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the establishment of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. This historic judicial inquiry will be the biggest in Australia’s history.
It will hear testimonies, not only about the original sex crimes, but also the subsequent crimes of concealment by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, and other organisations.
The Australian inquiry goes way beyond the brief of any such inquiry anywhere in the world by promising to follow up with prosecuting sex offenders, and those guilty of concealing or covering up their crimes. A special investigation unit has been established to gather further evidence and prepare briefs for the police.
Although the commission itself cannot prosecute, the early establishment of these units means this important work in bringing about accountability can commence quite soon.
The effects of the royal commission could have widespread and unforeseen outcomes – such has been the force of religion in Australia, threatening to shake Australia’s social and political life when its findings are published.