Ex-Catholic brother Bernard Kevin McGrath loses extradition fight over 252 child sexual abuse charges
Ex-Catholic brother Bernard Kevin McGrath loses extradition fight over 252 child sexual abuse charges
A judge has ruled that a former Catholic brother wanted in Australia on 252 charges of child sexual abuse can be extradited from New Zealand.
The extradition order was made in the Christchurch District Court for 66-year-old Bernard Kevin McGrath.
He has 15 days in which to appeal or voluntarily return to Australia, otherwise he will be arrested and extradited.
New South Wales police say the alleged offending involved 35 boys from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s.
McGrath’s conditional bail was continued.
Paedophiles walk as their victims suffer
- The Daily Telegraph
- April 29, 2013
ONLY three of the 238 men convicted of having sex with a child under 10 in the past decade have been jailed for what the government has set as a standard minimum term of 15 years.
One man who raped a child was behind bars for as little as nine months.
The shocking truth of such lenient sentences is revealed as The Daily Telegraph launches a campaign to force judges to do what the community expects through setting mandatory minimum terms for all sex crimes against children.
Angry child protection advocates and victims groups say that judges should not be free to ignore the standard non-parole periods set as guidelines for paedophiles and others who possess child pornography.
Even Attorney-General Greg Smith yesterday acknowledged more needed to be done to bring sentences into line with what the public think is appropriate.
Mr Smith said the community considered sexual intercourse with a child under 10 was among the most heinous offences and “wants sentencing to reflect this”.
But the system of standard non-parole periods, introduced in 2003 as “guideposts” aimed at bringing consistency to sentences, is not working, Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said.
“There should be mandatory minimum sentences because we can’t trust the judges,” she said.
Ms Johnston said Bravehearts had long opposed such sentences because it could see sense in judges’ arguments that they were best placed to see all the issues and determine the right sentence.
“But we have adjusted that view because it is obvious that judges do not reflect community expectations,” Ms Johnston said.
“When standard non-parole periods were introduced, we thought, this is fantastic. It will give some certainty.
“But we have since looked at how they operate in NSW and found quite a large percentage of cases are falling outside the template.”
In the past decade, the longest non-parole periods imposed for having sex with a child under the age of 10, in cases of domestic violence, were just nine months and one year, according to Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research figures. Of 238 men convicted of having sex with a child under 10 in the same period, only three were jailed for what the government has set as a standard minimum term of 15 years.
Victims of Crime Assistance League’s Howard Brown said sex crimes against children fell in a special category where the sentence needed to be spelled out clearly as a mandatory minimum period.
“The reason judges oppose this, and I understand their rationale in a general sense, is that we should never remove the independence of the judiciary so they become beholden to government,” he said.
“But there is that saying that with rights come responsibilities and the general community is of the view that judges have abrogated their responsibilities by not handing down sentences that reflect community concerns.”
There are 35 offences for which the government sets standard non-parole periods, five of them cover sex crimes against children as young as 10. They include creating child pornography but not possessing it.
Mr Smith will today announce an overhaul of the system of standard non-parole periods but denied it was sparked after being notified about The Daily Telegraph campaign. He said it was partly prompted by a 2011 High Court ruling in a case of a child sex offender which reduced even more the significance a judge has to place on standard non-parole periods.
He said research showed sentences had increased since the introduction of standard non-parole periods but there was still inconsistency. But he does not support mandatory minimum terms for child sex crimes.
The only mandatory sentence in NSW is life for the murder of a police officer.
“We know the community wants tougher sentences and we will seek to get more guidance to the courts so they realise community concern,” Mr Smith said. “But nevertheless we need to maintain judicial discretion because no one case is the same as another.”
Mr Smith raised the spectre of rapists killing their victims after “Queensland police at their top level” had concerns that mandatory sentences in that state could lead to murders. Ms Smith said that two barristers who he had asked to review sentences for child sex crimes had “not been able to show a pattern of trivial sentencing”.
Australia priest jailed for child sex attacks
It’s disgusting, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church” Victim’s mother
2 July 2010 Last updated at 04:06 ET
From the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10485407
A Catholic priest in Australia has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in jail for sex attacks on 25 children over nearly two decades.
John Sidney Denham, 67, pleaded guilty to a range of charges relating to attacks on boys at schools in New South Wales between 1968 and 1986.
The judge said his actions “contributed to a culture of fear and depravity”.
Denham apologised to the victims and their families, saying he saw himself as a “mere scumbag paedophile”.
He was sentenced to 19 years and 10 months in jail for crimes including sexual acts and indecent assaults against boys aged between five and 16 years old. He was ordered to serve a minimum of 13 years and 10 months.
Judge Helen Syme spent nearly three hours summing up the charges against the priest, The Australian newspaper reports.
“The incident assaults involved multiple children, often significant planning, were frequently sadistic and overall persistent, objectively serious, criminal courses of conduct,” she said.
“The offender’s actions contributed to a culture of fear and depravity, especially at the school, which allowed these disturbing offences to occur and then remain unpunished for years.”
In a statement, Denham told the court on Thursday: “All I can say is, I’m so sorry. I see myself as a mere scumbag paedophile who took advantage of a situation and used my power to abuse young people.”
The victims and their families welcomed the sentence, but said the Catholic Church should be held accountable for what went on.
“He was a horrendous man, really horrendous,” one mother said. “It just all goes back on to the families – it’s ruined families, siblings. It’s disgusting, the hierarchy in the Catholic Church.”
The abuse of children by Catholic priests has been a major issue in recent years as victims and relatives have sought justice.
The victims’ group Broken Rites Australia says it has received thousands of calls reporting abuse since opening its national telephone hotline in 1993 – and has helped to sentence more than 100 clergymen.
During a visit to Australia in July 2008 Pope Benedict XVI met some of the victims and made a public apology for the abuse.
Australia opens national child abuse inquiry
3 April 2013 Last updated at 04:39 ET
A national inquiry into child sex abuse has opened in the Australian city of Melbourne, with more than 5,000 people expected to provide evidence of “abuse and consequential trauma”.
PM Julia Gillard has warned that the commission will unearth “some very uncomfortable truths”.
She said that its opening was an “important moral moment” for Australia.
The inquiry will look at religious groups, NGOs and state care providers as well as government agencies.
But commission officials have warned that it is unlikely to complete its task by the end of 2015 as requested.
They say that is because the scope of the inquiry is so large – in relation to the number of people testifying and the number of institutions who may be affected by the allegations.
The probe will look into institutional responses to the sexual abuse of children.
Its formation was announced by Ms Gillard in November following pressure from lawmakers amid police claims that the Roman Catholic Church had concealed evidence of paedophile priests.
The commission was formed after revelations emerged of child abusers being moved from place to place instead of their crimes being reported and investigated. There were also accusations that adults failed to stop further acts of abuse.
Ms Gillard told ABC radio that she wanted the commission to provide a “moment of healing” for the survivors of child sexual abuse – “because for too long, so many of these survivors have just run into closed doors and closed minds”.
“And second, I want the royal commission to provide for us recommendations about the future.
“We’ve let children down in the past as a country. We need to learn what we can do as a nation to better protect our children in the future.”
Chairman Justice Peter McClellan said that the commission had already served notice to produce documents on the Roman Catholic church and the Salvation Army.
Correspondents say that the composition of the inquiry panel is unusual – it has six commissioners, enabling one or more to sit in private to hear victims’ stories over the next five months. It is estimated that each victim will need at least an hour to tell his or her story.
Justice McClellan warned that the commission would be expensive and would “require the commitment of very significant sums of public money”.
Chairman Justice Peter McClellan. There have been a series of convictions but also a series of alleged cover-ups.
In September, the Roman Catholic Church in Victoria state confirmed that more than 600 children had been sexually abused by its priests since the 1930s.
Similar allegations have emerged from New South Wales where the church has been accused of silencing victims, hindering police investigations, alerting offenders, destroying evidence and moving priests to protect them from prosecution.
During a visit to Australia in July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI met some of the victims and made a public apology for the abuse.
Priest accused of child abuse ‘sent to Australia’
- Charles Miranda in London
- From: News Limited Network
- March 04, 2013 12:00AM
TWO priests are under investigation by church authorities both in Australia and the UK amid allegations they sexually abused at least two boys in the 1960s and 1980s.
News Limited can reveal one of the priests, Father Gordon Bennett, died in 2011 but not before the church had been told the priest, who was sent to Australia in September 1985, was being accused of child sex offences.
The victim, who asked not to be named, had been writing to the church in the UK and later Australia with his claims for more than five years prior to Fr Bennett dying at the age of 90.
The victim, now aged in his 60s, last month retained legal counsel and is to pursue a claim of damages against the Catholic Church in Australia or in London where last Friday the UK’s highest court ruled clerics were akin to being “employees” of the church and thus diocese are liable.
In a second unrelated case, a Queensland man now aged in his 40s is also seeking legal redress after being allegedly abused by Jesuit priest Father James Chaning-Pearce who in 1997 pleaded guilty and was jailed in England for three years for abusing another three boys aged 12, 13 and 15.
The Australian man was allegedly abused in the mid-1980s in Zimbabwe – where his parents had been posted – and he met the priest who was working at a school.
He approached authorities including the police in the UK after he realised the man who had allegedly abused him was back working at a prestigious Catholic boys’ college in the UK.
It was his information that then sparked the police probe which led to Chaning-Pearce’s prosecution for the UK abuse.It is understood the priest, having served his time, is now at a monastery in Wales. No charges have been brought against him in relation to these latest allegations.
Legal sources close to both investigations said material gathered so far including letters written to the church authorities would be made available to the landmark royal commission announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last November.
The commission, with its wide-ranging powers, was created after NSW police claimed the Catholic Church covered up evidence of pedophile priests.
Since then the church has created the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to work with the commission on claims.
Truth, Justice and Healing Council CEO Francis Sullivan said yesterday his group would look at the latest claims and was committed in supplying whatever evidence to get the truth out.
“The suffering of victims and those damaged from the abuse scandals remains the number one issue to be addressed and that our church, like other institutions, must keep up with best practice process to protect children and prevent any sexual or other abuse,” he said.
Paedophile net widens
By JOANNE McCARTHY and MICHELLE HARRIS
Jan. 25, 2013, 10:16 p.m.
And then there were cheers.
‘‘That is bloody brilliant,’’ said John Feenan, whose son Daniel’s evidence about Fletcher’s crimes put the priest in jail, where he died in 2006.
‘‘Our family has always believed the church hierarchy knew Fletcher was a risk around children, which is why he was moved. Bishop Leo Clarke and others knew.
‘‘It’s my birthday today, and that’s the best present I’ve had in years.’’
Peter Gogarty called it ‘‘a wonderful, wonderful day’’, after years of guilt that he could have protected other boys, including Daniel Feenan, if he had reported Fletcher’s child sex offences against him.
‘‘If people in the church knew about Jim Fletcher – and I know they did – then they should have done something about him. But they didn’t, and now people are finally being called to account,’’ Mr Gogarty said.
The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Deputy Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, was already investigating matters relating to another Hunter paedophile priest, Denis McAlinden, after allegations raised by Hunter Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.
The inquiry has been extended by six months to the end of September. Public submissions have also been extended until March 1.
The first hearing is on February13. Further dates, including hearings in Newcastle, will be advised. Ms Cunneen will report to the government by September30. She encouraged people and organisations with information to come forward.
‘‘I am acutely aware of the sensitivities of the issues before the inquiry and the intense public interest in the final report,’’ Ms Cunneen said.
‘I would like to take the opportunity to assure those affected that we will do whatever we can to ensure that anybody who has information relevant to the inquiry will be heard.’’
The changes authorise the commission to share information with the national Royal Commission into Child Abuse, including referring evidence.
Father Farrell charged for alleged offences against three girls
- October 18, 2012
Leesha McKenny and Lisa Davies
A former NSW priest who allegedly told three senior Catholic clergy a decade ago that he had repeatedly sexually abused children has been charged with 25 child-sex offences relating to three girls.
The 59-year-old was arrested at a home in Armidale this morning, and is expected to face court this afternoon in relation to the charges dating back to the 1970s and ’80s.
Following his arrest, police urged anyone with information about an alleged cover-up by the Catholic Church to come forward.
Sex crime squad commander John Kerlatec said it was too early to say for sure whether Strike Force Glenroe would investigate suggestions the Catholic Church covered up the allegations.
“It’s certainly early days in regards to our investigation in respect to the alleged cover-up that’s been suggested,” Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
The offences were allegedly discovered after police formed Strike Force Glenroe in July.
Detectives have spoken to 50 people, including potential victims, their families and others who may have information.
The police say the victims were were all young girls aged between five and 18 when they were allegedly sexually and indecently assaulted by the former priest.
The State Crime Command’s sex crimes squad set up Strike Force Glenroe in July to investigate allegations that Father F had abused altar boys while a priest based in Armidale and Parramatta.
Father F, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was removed from public ministry after a meeting with three clergy in 1992, following continued allegations of abuse after he was moved from the Armidale diocese to Parramatta.
The three priests now all occupy senior positions in the church, which has denied a cover-up amid conflicting accounts of Father F’s admissions during the 1992 meeting and why he was not reported to police.
Father F, who was defrocked in 2005 but continued to live in Armidale, also told a court in 2004 that he had admitted to the priests that he performed oral sex on boys.
These allegations were brought to light by an ABC Four Corners report earlier this year.
Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam had been appointed by Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy and Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher to lead its own inquiry into the church’s handling of the case.
Bishop Kennedy said in a statement that that the diocese was offering its full co-operation and assistance to police.
“I am not able to comment any further as this is a matter rightly being dealt with by the NSW Police,” he said.
“I again take this opportunity to extend my deepest sympathy to victims of child abuse and their families, and reassure the community of my commitment to see justice achieved.”
Premier Barry O’Farrell welcomed today’s arrest.
“I welcome the police decision to arrest another person accused of paedophilia,” Mr O’Farrell said.
“I wish them well – that’s what should be happening, rather than some of the politically motivated calls for royal commissions.”
Ex-Catholic brother to reveal if he’ll fight extradition
A former Lake Macquarie Catholic brother accused of raping dozens of boys is today expected to reveal if he will fight plans to extradite him from New Zealand.
Hunter region detectives have spent more than a year investigating allegations relating to the Kendall Grange boys home at Morisset south of Newcastle.
It was run by the St John of God order and police allege former Brother Bernard McGrath abused 35 boys while working there.
McGrath, who has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand, is currently facing 252 child sex charges.
He has been on strict conditional bail after facing Christchurch District Court earlier this month.
As part of the conditions he was forced to surrender his passport and was banned from going within 100 metres of any primary or secondary school unless he was driving past.
There had been criticism of New South Wales police after McGrath went to Sri Lanka for a holiday but detectives have told the ABC they knew he would return to New Zealand.
McGrath is due to face Christchurch District Court today to reveal if he will fight plans to extradite him to Australia.
Detectives leading the case have not flown to New Zealand.
They have told the ABC even if McGrath does not fight the extradition order he has a 14 day cooling off period.
Studio interview with Senior NSW Detective Peter Fox
Updated Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:57pm AEDT
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, a 30-year veteran with the NSW police force, alleges a cover-up by the Catholic church into child sexual abuse and is calling for a Royal Commission.
A link to the video is at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-08/studio-interview-with-senior-nsw-detective-peter/4362100?section=nsw
This is a transcript of the video:
TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox joined me in the studio just a short time ago.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, thanks for joining us.
PETER FOX, NSW POLICE: It’s a pleasure, Tony.
TONY JONES: Let’s start with how you got so frustrated and angry that you were publicly challenging the NSW Premier. Now your letter to Premier O’Farrell begins like this: “I’ve investigated so many sexual assaults in 30 years of policing that I’ve lost count. I’ve seen the worst society can dredge up, particularly the evil of paedophilia within the Catholic Church.” What is the worst of it?
PETER FOX: Oh, Tony, I think most people would be absolutely crumpled up in tears to hear it. Just some examples of what I’ve sat and listened to is that one young boy at the hands of paedophile priest James Fletcher, he was 12 years of age when the priest drove to a secluded park outside of Maitland. He told the boy to remove his pants and the boy was totally unaware of what was going on and quite embarrassed, but that particular priest anally penetrated him.
The boy wasn’t aware at that stage that his anus had been torn and he started bleeding. He was screaming in agony on the seat and his knuckles were turning white. And as the priest continued to thrust while he screamed, he said he focused on the St Christopher’s Cross on the dashboard and watched it swaying back and forward to try and take his focus off the pain.
The priest never relented at any stage during that, and even after the act was completed, he was totally uncaring for the child and simply sat back in the driver’s seat and had a cigarette while he finished sobbing.
TONY JONES: Some of these stories, in fact some of statements that you’ve taken from witnesses, victims, so upset a DPP solicitor that she simply couldn’t go on with the case. Is that one of these?
PETER FOX: That was one of those cases. And, again, that was a solicitor that had dealt with many cases of sexual abuse. But the details and the graphic images that were conveyed in those statements so upset her. And she was well-known to me. She rang me up and apologised profusely, but said, “I just cannot stay with this case. I just can’t handle it.”
TONY JONES: You wouldn’t be surprised about that, would you, because in fact most people don’t want to hear these things, they’re too awful for them to even comprehend.
PETER FOX: Well as I said in my letter to the Premier today, we do block a lot of those images away and we just accept the word paedophile or molestation. But when you actually sit down with those victims and you’re looking into their eyes, police are not immune from it. And I sat there with so many of those victims and you can’t but help feel their pain. The agony is still there and it will always be there to some degree.
And to just be so cold, even though I’m in a professional role, not to have some empathy for what that individual has gone through as a child just wouldn’t be human.
TONY JONES: Some of them you saw in mental institutions, some committed suicide. You spoke to their relatives. All were terribly, terribly damaged.
PETER FOX: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, one young boy, I actually had my wife drop me off in Maitland and I went to the psychiatric ward of Maitland Hospital and I sat with that young fellow for a number of hours just reassuring him that he didn’t have to go on with the matter if he wasn’t up to it. We broke for a number of months before he was ready to come back.
These aren’t easy things and there’s got to be a lot of compassion and a lot of understanding from police. Sometimes these people aren’t up to going through to taking it to court and we’ve got to sometimes take that hard pill and sit back and say, “OK, it’s frustrating that we won’t get this guy, but we can’t put them through that ordeal.”
The degree of courage those that do come back and say, “Listen, I want to finish that statement. I want to see him taken to court.” How we can sit back and say they do not deserve our fullest support, because, my God, they’ve got some courage to be able to stand up and do what they’ve got to do and say what they’ve got to say in court and relive that ordeal.
Whether you’re the Premier of NSW or you’re just somebody sitting back watching this on TV tonight, it’s got to move you. It can’t but move you. It’s terrible.
TONY JONES: As we’ve heard, the scale of this abuse in Newcastle-Maitland Diocese over many years is truly shocking. It’s astonishing in fact. 400 victims, 14 clergy charged (inaudible), six Catholic teachers convicted, three priests currently on trial. How does this much evil get concentrated in one small area?
PETER FOX: I don’t think it takes a detective chief inspector to work that out, Tony. Alarm bells were ringing there for me many, many years ago, so much so that I actually detailed a number of reports to hierarchy within the Police Department to launch fuller investigations.
It was quite evident that something was going on. These priests were operating in adjoining parishes abusing children, they were meeting at meetings together. 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 him against those charges.
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.
TONY JONES: This is actually – this is – as horrific as the litany of sexual crimes against children are, to me one of the most disturbing lines in your letter was along these lines: “I can testify from my own experience the Church covers up, silences victims, hinders police investigations, alerts offenders, destroys evidence and moves priests to protect the good name of the Church.” You’re saying you have evidence of all of this?
PETER FOX: Oh, not only do I have evidence, it’s irrefutable. Most of that is fact that’s been admitted by many of them. We encounter it all the time. For people to sit back and say it’s not going on, they’ve got their head in the sand. 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 disclose things to us.
TONY JONES: If things were covered up, if there was serious cover-up, how high up the chain did it go to your sure knowledge?
PETER FOX: I have definite information that – of some covering up certainly to a number of diocese bishops. It potentially goes even higher than that.
TONY JONES: Higher than that? You mean into the top levels of the Church hierarchy, is that what you’re saying?
PETER FOX: That’s correct. I’ve got no doubt. You know, to sit back and sort of say, “Listen, each of these diocese are self-autonomous and there’s no-one above that knows what goes on at those lower levels,” we live in a real world and it would be as if, you know, I’m doing something in the police force at Raymond Terrace and I’m not accountable to somebody else at a higher level at Newcastle or in Sydney.
That’s how the chain-of-command in any organisation works. To turn around and say, “No, we work something different. We didn’t know about that,” I think most of the public are smart enough to be able to put two and two together there.
TONY JONES: Proving it of course is the other thing, the critical thing and it’s what you – I guess in a way it’s what you’ve been searching for all this time. In 2010, two years ago, new witnesses started to come forward to give evidence about the activities of one paedophile priest called Father McAlinden. Now one of those witnesses I would describe as a key Church insider, a whistleblower. You took a statement from this person. How significant was that statement?
PETER FOX: When I was directed to hand that statement over, I described her statement – and I’d never used the term about a statement in my entire career before that – but I described that statement as explosive and I still describe it as explosive.
What is disclosed in that is monumental. I’ve spent a couple of months getting that statement, typing it down in very careful detail and spending an enormous amount of time with that particular witness who was, like many victims – and I should add, Tony, that she wasn’t simply a witness; she’d also herself been a victim at a much earlier time of McAlinden.
So when she came forward and was able to give all that information, it just opened a can of worms. I was able to go to another number of witnesses who began corroborating various aspects and saying, “Yes, that is exactly what happened.” So, the credibility towards that witness was certainly being elevated.
TONY JONES: So, what did that witness actually bring to the table, being an insider in the Church, what was she able to say about what was happening in terms of the cover-up?
PETER FOX: Tony, I understand that Strike Force Lantle has already sent some briefs off to the DPP for consideration. I don’t want to say anything that may prejudice anything that’s going on there.
But I think it’s already been reported in the papers that some of the police that are attached to that have already indicated that there is an archbishop and at least two other priests that are implicated – or sorry, an archbishop, a bishop and a priest that are implicated in potential cover-up.
Now the DPP, I understand, has been sent those briefs and they’re considering it now.
TONY JONES: One of the most disturbing things that you said earlier was that you were directed to give this material up. As I understand it, you were also ordered to stand down from the case, to no longer investigate this case. Is that a correct way of putting it?
PETER FOX: That’s absolutely correct. That’s spot on.
TONY JONES: And the reason given to you for being taken off this case which you’d obviously worked on for, well, as long as you could remember, I’d imagine?
PETER FOX: Well I worked on it since I started investigating Denis McAlinden in 1999. I had contact with various witnesses over the years. I actually even interviewed Bishop Leo Clarke, who in 2003 told me when I asked if he had knowledge of any other victims other than the one that I already, and very clearly said to me no.
I later seen documentation, after he passed away, that clearly indicated that he had full knowledge of other victims.
Boiling it down to just simple words, he lied. I was standing there with a colleague and he just straight-out lied to me about his knowledge of other victims. Hence the reason I say that some in the Church have no reservation about lying when it comes to it to conceal the fact that they had knowledge of these crimes.
TONY JONES: But let’s just go through this because if I understand this correctly, you are the person – the investigator who knows the most about this case, you are the person who has interviewed the whistleblower, the key witness, you’ve got the statement in front of you that you think is dynamite and you are told by a superior to stand down from the case and give over your material. Is that how it happened?
PETER FOX: Yes. That’s it in a nutshell.
TONY JONES: And are you able to tell us who that superior was?
PETER FOX: It’s a very senior officer within the NSW Police and I was quite dismayed at it. That particular witness was quite distraught when I told her that I’d been told to hand the whole matter over.
TONY JONES: Because you had a personal relationship.
PETER FOX: A personal professional relationship.
TONY JONES: Of trust, a relationship of trust.
PETER FOX: Well originally she actually came forward to a newspaper reporter, Joanne McCarthy, and after many months she finally convinced this witness to come forward and speak to police. She actually said – refused and then she said, “The only police officer I will speak to is Peter Fox.”
I didn’t know her and it was explained that she had spoken to a number of other families who had dealt with me in the past and she said she would feel comfortable dealing with me. Now, on that basis of course I’m not going to turn her away, of course I’m going to say, “Yes, come in and sit down and we’ll get the statement.” I have my own thoughts on it. A lot of other people may have their thoughts.
TONY JONES: About why you were taken off the case.
PETER FOX: I was just – I was very, very disappointed. I’m not being critical of any of the investigators that are working on Strike Force Lantle. They were handed the matter. But as to the reasons why that was done when I pursued the matter for over a decade, I don’t know.
TONY JONES: Do you believe it was because you’re too independent of mind, that you couldn’t be controlled?
PETER FOX: Tony, I don’t think I’d be lying if I said that a lot in the police force would consider me rather outspoken. I’m sure that some hierarchy in the police force won’t be wanting to put me on their Christmas card list after the letter today and after speaking here tonight. I don’t care.
At the end of the day, I don’t know whether I’ll face disciplinary charges or anything in relation to the stance I’ve taken. And again, I don’t care. What I do care about is that there are so many victims out there. I can’t divorce myself – even though I’m a detective, I can’t say that I’m not human and I haven’t heard their pain.
There’s something very wrong when you have so many paedophile priests operating in such a small area for such an extended period of time with immunity. And my – I submitted report after report suggesting that we needed to do a lot more about investigating this. Why that didn’t happen, I’ve never received a response.
TONY JONES: Let me just go – there has been some response from – to questions that we asked from the police. In a statement sent to us tonight the police saying that you were informed that Strike Force Lantle would be fully investigating the allegations. It was because they were under a different operational command or local area command than the one that you worked in, that you were not appropriately meant to be part of that strike force.
PETER FOX: I don’t know who said that, Tony. That’s the first time I’ve ever had those comments made to me.
TONY JONES: This is a statement from Assistant Commissioner Carlene York of the Northern Command NSW.
PETER FOX: I – she wasn’t at the meeting when I was directed to hand all the documentation over. What I will say is that I did send her a report expressing my concern and the reasons why I felt that I should be left with carriage of that matter, detailing many of the issues you’ve raised tonight plus a lot more. Nothing changed.
TONY JONES: Does this statement seem legitimate to you? Does it seem like the real reason why you weren’t allowed to continue that investigation?
PETER FOX: I was never told why. To sort of say that I was – Raymond Terrace is a stone’s throw from Newcastle. It’s only a few kilometres. As you pointed out, I had a lot of experience and you do, you build up a very strong rapport. It wasn’t just that particular witness, but I’d also spoken to a number of other victims that had been terribly abused by McAlinden.
TONY JONES: In other words, you were a logical person to be on the taskforce? Strike force.
PETER FOX: You can say that, but it’s something that I think most police are trained. We’re instructed when you go to detectives courses is that you don’t hand victims around like numbers. When they sit down and a victim talks to you, they open up to you, they pour their heart and soul out and they tell you things that they’ve never told another living soul. And then you’ve got to turn around say, “Well, I’m not going to talk to you anymore. You have got to go down and see these people.” I know from my training that is something that I’d never encountered before.
TONY JONES: It’s going to seem passing strange to most observers, as it does to me, I must say.
But let me just move on because you’ve actually called for a Royal Commission. If there were a Royal Commission, would this whistleblower, the insider who seems to know so much be prepared to talk at the Royal Commission, to give evidence and to lay out all of this in front of the public?
PETER FOX: Tony, I don’t know. I was directed not to contact them again. My last contact with her was – she was virtually in tears when I handed her a copy of a statement and told her to hang on to it and that was my last contact with her. I don’t mind saying that there was a lot more that was said at that meeting that I won’t say here. I think that it is best left for another forum.
But to say that that was a very difficult moment and something that quite saddened me as an investigator of well over 30 years in this job.
TONY JONES: But do you believe that a Royal Commission is necessary for people like this to be able to come forward. Is that the only environment in which it would really work?
PETER FOX: There’s so much that the police force can’t do. We don’t have power. I have gone to other government departments, I’ve gone to the Ombudsman over aspects of it. Still today there are some antiquated rules and laws where priests, for argument’s sake, that have had allegations of abusing and molesting children, that is kept by the bishop.
If it’s a school teacher in the Catholic school system, it goes to a different department. But the bishops still retain that. I don’t know why. There’s no obligation on them to pass that information on to police. And I don’t think that’s a secret.
The Victorian inquiry and I think the inquiries overseas and just history itself says that that doesn’t happen. There’s so much evidence on the basis that paedophile priests, once they become known by their hierarchy, the hierarchy has a systemic pattern of not forwarding that information on.
We need to get around that, because as I said in that letter to the Premier – and I don’t want the issue to become adversarial, I don’t want to enter into …
TONY JONES: OK. Well, let’s put it this way: I’m sure Barry O’Farrell will see this interview. He’s up until now said no Royal Commission, he doesn’t want to be pressure into having a Royal Commission. He, I understand, won’t even reply to your letter. Here’s your chance to say something to him. What do you say?
PETER FOX: Well, on that basis, I have three children at home. Probably like most families, I’ve got some of their photographs on the wall. They’re now grown adults, but we still have the photos of when they were growing up on our wall. Two of them are now – have our grandchildren. I’m sure Mr O’Farrell has children. I understand he has two boys. A lot of these victims’ families have similar photos. I’ve walked into their homes and I’ve seen them.
We’re lucky. We haven’t had to go through what some of those other families have gone through. If Mr O’Farrell just sits back and he can look up on that wall and see those pictures of his boys, he has a lot of thanks to give that his boys were never ever abused in the way that some of these other families have.
And if he has any compassion and humanity for some of these victims, he’s got to turn around. Why can we have an inquiry in Victoria – and the police down there have been fantastic. We’ve seen the evidence that the Commissioner and the assistant commissioners have been right behind it and they’re tabling stuff and yet I’m dismayed here in a state of NSW that we’re saying it stops at the Murray River, they don’t come up here.
When we can make a change that is going to stop more victims from being abused, that’s the real difference. We can actually impact upon the number. And to sit back and say, “Listen, we’re not going to do that,” something is wrong in the state of NSW if that’s the attitude.
TONY JONES: Detective chief inspector Peter Fox, an extraordinary story. We thank you very much for coming on Lateline to talk to us.
PETER FOX: Thank you very much, Tony, for airing it.
TONY JONES: And the full responses of the NSW Police to Lateline’s questions will be posted on our website.
NSW POLICE STATEMENT
Responses to Lateline’s questions from Assistant Commissioner Carlene York, Northern Region Commander.
1. What is your response to the letter and article in the Newcastle Herald today in particular the concerns raised by Detective Inspector Peter Fox?
The views of Detective Chief Inspector Fox are not necessarily the views of the NSWP Force. All matters referred to NSWP have and will continue to be investigated to their full extent. NSW Police Force are not in a position to comment on the call for a judicial enquiry, this issue should be referred to the appropriate authority.
2. Are you 100 per cent happy with how the NSW Police are handling the allegations of cover ups and concealing crimes by members of the clergy?
NSW Police Force has investigated matters relating to Strike Force Lantle thoroughly. I am satisfied that all avenues of enquiry that we are aware of have been followed through and appropriate referrals made. I am not in a position to comment on any other investigations that may have occurred.
3. Is the Catholic Church and its senior officers fully cooperating with your investigations including Strike Force Lantle?
It is my understanding that as a whole the church have cooperated with police. All potential witnesses were offered an opportunity to provide information, one of whom declined to be interviewed.
4. Do you believe a judicial Inquiry would jeopardise current police investigations?
Unless further evidence comes to light, the NSWP Force has fully investigated Strike Force Lantle matters. There are no further lines of enquiry to investigate thus any Judicial Inquiry should have no effect on current investigations. I cannot however comment on any other investigations that may be underway within NSW Police Force and any impact on them.
This matter now rests with the ODPP for a decision as to whether the matter can progress. The NSWP Force cannot comment on the effect any judicial inquiry may have on a successful prosecution should the ODPP determine there that a prosecution may proceed
5. Have your officers been impeded in their investigations by any member of the clergy ? or officers or employees of the Catholic Church?
See question 3.
6. Why was Chief Inspector, Peter Fox asked to cease investigating the clergy matter and hand over all his evidence to other police?
Strike Force Lantle was established to ensure that a thorough and coordinated investigation was undertaken in relation to the allegations raised. 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, particularly one like Newcastle City LAC where there were already 2 Detective Inspectors overseeing investigative issues. Detective Chief Inspector Fox was consulted on numerous occasions and asked to provide information to assist the investigation.
Ex-priest James Patrick Jennings is ordered to stand
trial in Melbourne
In the mid and late 1960s, Father James Patrick Jennings was listed as a priest at St Vincent’s College — a Catholic boarding school for boys in Bendigo, 150 kilometres north of Melbourne. Father Jennings was then a member of the Vincentian religious order (this order is also called the Congregation of the Mission).
More than 40 years later, in May 2012, Jennings was charged in the Bendigo Magistrates Court with a series of child-sex offences, allegedly committed against boys at the school in the 1960s.
James Jennings, aged 79 when charged in court, faces multiple charges of gross indecency and indecent assault on a male child aged under 16. The charges relate to three complainants, all students at this Bendigo school in the 1960s.
Magistrate Jennifer Tregent heard evidence concerning the three complainants.
The court also heard from Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Morris, head of the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) at Bendigo Police. Senior Sergeant Morris received some information from a New South Wales police unit (Strike Force Belle), which was established to investigate allegations of sexual assaults on students at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst in central-west NSW. The Bathurst school was run by the same order of priests as St Vincent’s in Bendigo.
The court was told that James Jennings left the priesthood many years ago and he now lives in Tasmania.
On 8 May 2012, after a two-day preliminary hearing, the Bendigo magistrate ordered James Patrick Jennings to stand trial in a higher court on these charges. The magistrate listed the case for a later date in the Melbourne County Court, where initially a judge would have a brief “directions hearing” (to determine when and how the subsequent hearings would be held).
Jennings’ bail was extended pending the Melbourne County Court proceedings.
Meanwhile, the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team at Bendigo (telephone 03 5448 1420) is continuing its inquiries.
St Vincent’s College was set up in Bendigo in 1955 and was run by the Vincentian Fathers. In 1977, it was taken over by the Marist Brothers. In 1983 this school then became part of Catholic College Bendigo.