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.