Sex abuse whistleblower cop axed

Last updated 19:35 07/05/2013
Peter Fox
DEAN OSLAND/Fairfax Media

EXPOSING CATHOLIC MAFIA: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox outside the Newcastle Supreme Court.

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Whistleblower cop Peter Fox was axed from investigating alleged child sex abuse by priests in the New South Wales Hunter region, despite his protests that the victims had been through hell and he had promised them he'd follow through.

Subsequently, he breached an order not to contact a journalist because he felt it was a sinister move designed to sabotage the investigations.

Detective Chief Inspector Fox, who has alleged a "Catholic mafia" of police and others tried to cover up the clergy's pedophilia in the NSW Hunter Valley, told an inquiry in Newcastle on Tuesday he was ordered off the case at a "hostile" meeting in December 2010.

Superintendent Max Mitchell, now an assistant commissioner, had made it clear to him that he would have no role in "any way, shape or form" in a new investigation.

But Fox said the new probe was a sham he believed was "set up to fail", and the meeting confirmed his suspicion that some senior police were effectively trying to "sabotage" the investigations.

He said Mitchell told him to hand over all statements and documents, which he did, and to have no further contact with Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.

But he said McCarthy had more information than police, and her input was the "genesis" of the whole police inquiry.

He breached the order not to contact her by sending her an email that night in which he outlined his removal from the case and said "the pricks can shove it".

"I make no apology for it," he told the inquiry.

"I felt the direction was motivated by other factors that weren't honest and were corrupt."

Fox said he was also told not to contact any witnesses.

But he had protested: "These people have been through hell. They trusted me and I promised them I would follow through. I spent 28 hours taking a statement from one woman. We can't treat her like garbage."

He said Mitchell, who is yet to give evidence, conceded that Fox should at least be allowed to let the witness know he had been ordered off the case.

Special Commissioner Margaret Cunneen is investigating the circumstances in which Fox was asked to stop probing certain matters.

The inquiry is concentrating on two priests - serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted pedophile Father James Fletcher, both now dead.

In July, Commissioner Cunneen will also examine the extent to which Catholic church officials co-operated with police, including whether any investigation was hindered by failure to report criminal offences.

Three senior Catholic officials will testify - current Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson, who held senior positions in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in the 1980s and early 90s, retired bishop of the diocese Michael Malone, and Australian Catholic Bishops Conference secretary Father Brian Lucas.

The inquiry's amended terms of reference include provisions to share information with the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse subsequently ordered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Commissioner Cunneen is due to report to the NSW government by September 30.

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