‘Blind reporting’ of child sex allegations won't protect victims
23rd Jun 2015
Blind reporting of child sex allegations by the Catholic Church may be protecting abusers and those who knew and failed to act, as well as placing the NSW police service in breach of its obligations to the public and potentially of the criminal law, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
The Police Integrity Commission’s recent Operation Protea inquiry found that NSW Police and the Catholic Church had an informal arrangement that meant "attempts would not be made on the part of the Police Force to contact victims of abuse in circumstances in which a blind report form had been submitted" without first contacting the church's professional standards office. (‘Blind reporting’ involves information provided by the Church, not including further identifying information as to the identity of the victim, which is simply filed by police.)
ALA spokesperson Dr Andrew Morrison SC called on the NSW Police Minister, the Attorney-General and the NSW Government to stop the practice, which he said had the effect of protecting abusive clergy whilst leaving large numbers of children at continued risk.
“It is perfectly clear that blind reporting is continuing and that the police force is accordingly making itself complicit in a breach of its obligations to the public and potentially of the criminal law,” Dr Morrison said.
“The findings of the PIC inquiry reveal that the police were party to blind reporting of information regarding child sexual abuse so that effective follow up was usually made impossible,” Dr Morrison said.
“In addition the police officer who sat as part of her duties on a Catholic Church committee had a conflict of interest and was in breach of her obligations to the police force and to the public.”
“The evidence was that the police, from the early 2000s, had clear legal advice that the de-facto arrangement between the NSW police force and the Catholic Church’s professional standards resource group was in breach - both of the professional obligations of the police officers who were party to it, and of the duty of disclosure under Section 316 of the Crimes Act,” Dr Morrison said.
“Following the inquiry, the Commissioner has recommended no charges, no internal misconduct procedures and has merely recommended ‘urgent reconsideration’ of the practice of blind reporting. As the former DPP Nicholas Cowdery puts it, this makes the NSW Police Force party “to a Catholic Church conspiracy to thwart the criminal justice process.”
“The ALA calls on the Police Minister, the Attorney-General and the NSW Government to stop this outrageous practice which has the effect of protecting abusive clergy whilst leaving large numbers of children at continued risk,” Dr Morrison said.
“It is interesting that while the Police Integrity Commission has noted significant failings on the part of NSW police officers, which could possibly constitute misconduct, that there were recommendations that no disciplinary action be taken.”
Similarly, there was a finding that, in general, blind reporting contravenes Section 316 of the Crimes Act and yet only a recommendation to review the practice rather than telling the police to obey the law,” Dr Morrison said.
“This is a serious issue that demands greater attention.”