NSW police whistleblower Peter Fox had “ridden on a saddle of lies” in his investigation into alleged cover-ups of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese, a commission of inquiry in Newcastle has been told.
Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Little, appointed in late 2010 to head Strike Force Lantle to investigate the cover-up allegations, said there were “significant inaccuracies” in material Detective Chief Inspector Fox had passed on from his own investigation.
Detective Sergeant Little roundly rejected Detective Chief Inspector Fox’s earlier evidence to the inquiry, which resumed at Newcastle Supreme Court today after a five-week recess, that Strike Force Lantle was a “sham” and had been “set up to fail”. He said he had been “absolutely mortified by those comments”.
“If it was set up to be a sham, why would I have had the two things Fox didn’t have, that is, the support of my superiors, and a plan”.
The inquiry has heard evidence that Chief Inspector Fox held back evidence from Strike Force Lantle because he did not trust the police. Detective Sergeant Little said that in contrast to Chief Inspector Fox, “I was not operating in secret, I recorded things, I didn’t operate on speculation or manipulation of the truth”.
Mark Cohen, SC, representing Chief Inspector Fox, asked Detective Sergeant Little why it took him 15 months after he was appointed to Strike Force Lantle to contact Chief Inspector Fox. He said he had not seen the need because he relied on an investigator’s report that Chief Inspector Fox had already handed over all relevant information from his investigation.
Premier Barry O’Farrell established the commission of inquiry last November after Chief Inspector Fox alleged the church failed to report child sex allegations to police and failed to co-operate with police and that his own investigations had been shut down.
Chief Inspector Fox’s barrister Mark Cohen has applied to widen the commission’s terms of reference to allow investigation of allegations aired on ABC’s Lateline last week that police had shredded documents relating to a key Catholic Church advisory body dealing with abuse.
The Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy, who was named Australian Journalist of the Year in March for her coverage of sexual abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church’s Maitland-Newcastle diocese, is giving evidence this afternoon.
Detective Sergeant Little told the inquiry he had been instructed not to talk to the media about Strike Force Lantle, and specifically not to Joanne McCarthy.
He said it was a “highly protected investigation” in which there was a high level of community interest and “high corporate risk”, so police had kept it “very tight”.
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