ALA renews calls for national inquiry into child sex abuse in church

5th Jul 2012

The Australian Lawyers Alliance renews its calls for a national inquiry into the abuse of children within the Roman Catholic Church. It is unacceptable for the Church to investigate its own failure to investigate child sexual abuse.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance is disturbed to hear an NSW police spokesperson this morning say that an investigation of child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church can take place only if victims come forward. That is only partially true.

“In respect of Father F, he admitted to committing multiple instances of child sex abuse on oath in open Court. He is currently walking the streets of Armidale. There is no reason why his own sworn evidence would not warrant a prosecution,” Dr Andrew Morrison SC, barrister and ALA spokesperson said today.

It is not only those who abuse children who can be prosecuted. Those who cover up the abuse can also be prosecuted whether under s316 of the Crimes Act, or as accessories after the fact; or in respect of schools, as being in breach of mandatory reporting requirements.

“This could have serious consequences for a number of highly ranked clergy throughout Australia,” said Dr Morrison. “Currently, ALA is unaware of any prosecution of church officials for failure to report the widespread abuse that has occurred within the Church.”

The police have a basis for investigating all of these matters, including the meeting of the Australian Catholic Bishops Special Issues Resource Committee, which took place on 3 September 1992, and was aired on Four Corners earlier this week.

“It appears that either the Reverend Peters is being untruthful in a report to his own bishop about Father F’s admissions, or that the Reverend Brian Lucas and the Reverend J Usher are being untruthful about what occurred,” said Dr Morrison.

“If the Reverend Peters is correct, then as at 1992, there were clear admissions of serious criminal activity and a duty upon all three clergy to bring this matter immediately to the attention of police. Immediate police action would be appropriate.”

Similarly, in the Newcastle Maitland diocese, a police task force has, we understand, come close to concluding investigations into senior officers of the Church in that area in regard to action taken by the then bishop (now the Archbishop of Adelaide – Philip Wilson). He took action internally against a priest in respect of serious complaints, but it is alleged, failed to report the priest’s conduct which he evidently accepted occurred, to the police.

The result of those police investigations is awaited with great interest.

Tags: Access to justice Criminal justice Victims of crime