Child abuse inquiry: Whistleblower's credibility questioned

The credibility of police whistleblower Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox came under prolonged testing in the NSW inquiry into whether the police covered up child sexual abuse allegations against Catholic priests in the Hunter Valley.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, quizzed Chief Inspector Fox on Tuesday as to why he doubted an “extraordinary” alleged admission by one priest, Father Des Harrigan, that he had owned and subsequently destroyed gay pornography.

The policeman has given evidence that he suspected videos and magazines found in a presbytery at Lochinvar in 2003 had belonged to Father James Fletcher.

Ms Lonergan put it to Chief Inspector Fox that he had no evidence that the material belonged to Fletcher. She also suggested Chief Inspector Fox had not kept an open mind when speaking with Father Harrigan, and as a result did not believe the priest's admission.

Chief Inspector Fox agreed with both suggestions.

The inquiry has heard that the existence of the pornography came to light while Fletcher was awaiting trial for sexually abusing an altar boy. The priest was subsequently convicted of nine charges and died in jail in 2006.

Chief Inspector Fox agreed that the destruction of the pornography by Father Harrigan was not “important” if it had nothing to do with the investigation of Fletcher.

“I want to suggest to you that you made up the answer [yourself] that the pornography was destroyed because it belonged to Fletcher?” Ms Lonergan said.

The policeman said he was not discounting the possibility that the material belonged to Father Harrigan, “but I still at the same time can't discount the possibility that the material might have belonged to James Fletcher”.

Chief Inspector Fox's allegations that the church destroyed evidence relating to sexual abuse allegations are among the inquiry's terms of reference.

The inquiry continues.

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