NSW Enquiry: Session 2 Week 2 Day 2 (Or: Nobody Needs to Know)


Lawyers for the Catholic Church at the NSW government enquiry into clerical child sexual abuse in the Newcastle-Maitland diocese, appear to have been emboldened by the recent decision of the enquiry Commissioner, Margaret Cunneen, to hold “in-camera” hearings for Adelaide Archbishop Wilson.

[As a reader comment by “James” notes in one newspaper: “In camera = in secret. Calling it ‘in private’ is a euphemism. Whatever their rationalization, it looks bad.”]

Lawyers for Fr. Hannigan and Fr. Searle both tried to gain a gag order on evidence relating to these two priests. Elizabeth McLaughlin, for Harrigan, wanted a non-publication order which was rejected. Then Searle’s lawyer, Lachlan Gyles, tried the same thing. This time his move was opposed by both Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox’s lawyer, and the Counsel Assisting the enquiry. It, too, was rejected.

Mr. Gyles has had better success in the past at suppressing information. When the publication the Australian Financial Review obtained information under Freedom of Information laws on the money given by the Federal Government to Ford and General Motors, these organisations, and the Australian Government, moved for a suppression order to stop the newspaper publishing the information.

Almost $3.4 billion in federal and state funds have been promised to the three biggest manufacturers and their suppliers between now and 2020 in order to keep them afloat. The lawyer for the government was Mr. Gyles. The Australian Financial Review was ordered to return the hard-copy and destroy any electronic copies of the information.

At the court hearing, Editor in Chief of the newspaper, Michael Stutchbury, said he had acted in good faith and was confronted by the “heavy-handed opposition of the federal government and two global automotive manufacturers in its efforts to inform Australians of the secret deals that cost taxpayers billions of dollars.”

Mr Stutchbury criticized the Federal Government for seeking to censor what the public should rightly know and to cover up for its combination of incompetence and bad faith. Sound familiar?

The involvement of Fr. Hannigan was as the person who claimed ownership of the gay pornography found in a paedophile priest’s home. Detective Chief Inspector Fox stated that he was of the opinion that the material, in fact, belonged to the paedophile priest.

The involvement of Fr. Searle was more serious. In 1998, a victim, known as AH, of paedophile priest, Fr. Fletcher (see previous posting), went to a NelsonBay presbytery drunk and angry, accusing priests of doing “filthy things to little boys”. A witness to the incident was Fr. Searle.

Detective Chief Inspector Fox told the enquiry that Searle told him that the victim’s actions were understandable ‘‘in the light of what we now know’’. In a formal statement to another police officer, Dan Brown (no joke!), Searle changed his story and claimed the victim only said that “nobody loves me”.

If the moves by Ms. McLaughlin and Mr. Gyles had been successful, we would have known nothing of all of this. Fr. Searle, however, had been on the record in the past. During the trial of paedophile priest, John Denham, in 2010, Fr. Searle made some revealing comments which are worthy of renewed scrutiny at the enquiry.

Fr. Searle stated that when he told former Newcastle-Maitland bishop, Leo Clarke (see previous posting) about an incident involving Fr. Denham, the bishop expressed anger and said that “We know about Denham and you are not to talk about it to anybody”, court documents show.

In his court statement, Fr. Searle went on to say, “I did not tell anybody that I had been to see the bishop. As my superior I was under obedience to him.” This incident should have been reported to police, but was not. It was the second example of Bishop Clarke being informed of Fr. Denham’s abuse of children.

Apparently, the “I was only following orders” defence is likely to be resurrected, now that the “nobody outside the room needs to know” defence is under threat.

[Postscript: Big day tomorrow, with Bishop Malone’s appearance]

Read more here:

TOMORROW: NSW Enquiry: Session 2 Week 2 Day 3

That’s all I can say

Lewis Blayse (né Lewin Blazevich)


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