THE former head of a Catholic Church unit set up to handle complaints of clerical child sexual abuse has ‘‘categorically’’ denied not sending a 1999 complaint form about serial paedophile Denis McAlinden to the police.
John Davoren, director of the church’s Professional Standards Office from its inception in 1997 until 2003, was questioned on Tuesday at the Special Commission of Inquiry sitting in Newcastle.
After giving evidence-in-chief before senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan, Mr Davoren was cross-examined by various counsel including Wayne Roser for the NSW Police.
Mr Roser put it to Mr Davoren that a clerical child sexual abuse form filled out in his name in relation to McAlinden was not sent to the police.
‘‘I categorically deny that,’’ Mr Davoren said.
Mr Davoren has said he has no independent recall of dealing with the McAlinden matter or the case involving another serial paedophile, Jim Fletcher, which was triggered by a complaint by victim AH.
But he said it would have been his normal practice to pass on material to the police once he had discussed it with the relevant bishop.
Mr Roser said put it to Mr Davoren that two McAlinden victims, AL and AK, had not made complaints in 1999, as the form suggested, but in 1995.
‘‘My records indicate that they did (complain in 1999),’’ Mr Davoren said.
Mr Roser put it to Mr Davoren that he had ‘‘confused’’ the histories of different McAlinden victims, and when Ms Lonergan objected to the line of questioning, commissioner Margaret Cunneen agreed it could be difficult to follow the document chain when there were various complaints and pseudonyms of victims.
Later, counsel for the diocese, Lachlan Gyles, took the commission to other documents, at least one of them created after Mr Davoren had left the professional standards office, that showed the form referred to by Mr Roser had in fact been sent to the police.
Mr Davoren was also questioned about his involvement in the Fletcher matter, and his belief in 2002 that there was insufficient evidence to stand the priest down.
Although he knew that police officer Peter Fox had spoken with victim AH about his allegations against Fletcher, there was still no formal statement or charges against the priest.
On that basis , Mr Davoren said he had not felt ‘‘competent’’ to recommend Fletcher be stood down.
Answering a question from Mr Fox’s counsel, Mark Cohen, Mr Davoren said there concerns at the time that AH’s behaviour meant he was unreliable, and this was one of the problems with bringing people to account.
‘‘The paedophile had a public image that was most attractive and people would say he couldn’t have done anything of the kind, whereas the victim was seen as very confused so they unfairly unaware of what paedophilia, was saw the poor victim as being a troublemaker attacking this beautifully innocent priest,’’ Mr Davoren said.
The hearing continues on Tuesday afternoon.