Documents released to NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge under FOI have revealed for the first time the informal agreements under which the Church was working with NSW police for years up until 2003 to provide edited and sanitised reports of child abuse.
Watch the full report broadcast on ABC’s Lateline:
Read the full Transcript of the Lateline interview.
Read the report from the Newcastle Herald: Church, police agreed on abuse reporting
The documents reveal how one senior officer, the Commander of the Child Protection and Sex Crime Squad believed that the arrangements under which the Church had been operating for years were in direct conflict with the requirements to report abuse under s316 of the Crimes Act – entitled ‘Concealing serious indictable offence’.
The documents show that the Church believed that the NSW Police had agreed to the terms of the MOU and had been operating for years on this understanding.
There can be little doubt that the police were aware of the Church’s sanitised reporting of abuse and were at least complicit in the Church’s criminally questionable conduct.
Even when the commander of the sex crimes squad raised the prospect of criminality, it seems that no police resources were allocated to investigating the matter.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“Rather than conduct an investigation into a prima facie case of longstanding criminality by the Church, NSW Police just plodded on looking to get a more refined document in place.
It is clear from these documents that the Church had decided that it would not provide crucial evidence of abuse cases to the NSW Police unless and until they were ordered to do so by a Court.
“A key clause of one agreement that the Church believed was in operation with Police from the late 1990’s to at least mid-2003 read:
It is understood that the Church operated under the first of these agreements, editing hundreds if not more reports of abuse, from the late 1990’s to at least mid 2003.
David Shoebridge said:
“The Church’s position was not only a gross breach of its duty to protect children from abuse, it also appears to be have been in direct conflict with its obligations under the Crimes Act to provide this evidence to police.
“It is appalling that the Church’s institutional position was it would not provide its detailed investigations on abuse cases or any incriminating evidence from accused priests unless it was ordered to do so by the Courts.
See revised draft Memorandum of understanding dated 21/08/04
“The Church had a legal and moral obligation to provide this material to police which they ignored in order to protect the alleged perpetrators of abuse.
“It is equally remarkable that the NSW police seem to have accepted the Church’s sanitised and partial reporting of abuse cases for years, given the serious criminal conduct it was hiding.
“Both the NSW Police and the Church must come clean and inform the public for how long these offensive arrangements were in place.
“I have referred these matters to both the Hunter inquiry and the Federal Royal Commission into Abuse for further investigation and close consideration of the criminal consequences,” Mr Shoebridge said.