Background to the NSW Government enquiry (Or: Enough was not Enough)

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Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox (pictured above) led an investigation into clerical child sexual abuse in the Hunter region of New South Wales, centred around the city of Newcastle. When he complained of Catholic Church interference with police investigations, he was removed from responsibility for the investigations. Putting his career on the line, Mr. Fox went on national television to air his complaints and sent a letter to the NSW Premier requesting a Royal Commission. Eventually, the Premier yielded to pressure and set up an enquiry.

In the letter, Mr. Fox said, “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,” he wrote in his letter. But he said he was directed to give all of his material to a taskforce upon learning of the information. A superior officer then stood him down from investigating child sex abuse cases further.

However, the enquiry was to be limited to the Newcastle area (known locally as the Hunter region), and the Catholic Church. It was to investigate why Mr. Fox was shifted from the case, and how the Catholic Church had covered up abuse and hindered police investigations.

This did not satisfy Mr. Fox, and most other people, who wanted a much broader inquiry, of the form of a Royal Commission. “Any royal commission in New South Wales that’s limited just to the Hunter Valley, just to interactions between the church and police, is not going to satisfy victims,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said.

Pressure around this issue resulted, a couple of days later, in the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national Royal Commission. The NSW inquiry was then amended to be able to co-operate with the national inquiry.

While most of the problem in the Hunter region concerned the Catholic Church, there were also valid concerns about the Anglican Church. Bishop Farran, who has just retired, was under severe strain after defrocking three priests, including the former Dean of Newcastle, Graeme Lawrence.

The NSW inquiry began in February of this year and is due to report on or before 30th September. This will be interesting, given that a Federal election is due on 14th September and the inquiry’s progress will undoubtedly feature in the election campaign.

TOMORROW: Abuses in the Hunter Region of NSW

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)

 

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