Paedophile net widens

TWO Hunter men were in tears on Friday after the NSW government expanded the scope of its special commission of inquiry to include Hunter paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

And then there were cheers.

‘‘That is bloody brilliant,’’ said John Feenan, whose son Daniel’s evidence about Fletcher’s crimes put the priest in jail, where he died in 2006.

‘‘Our family has always believed the church hierarchy knew Fletcher was a risk around children, which is why he was moved. Bishop Leo Clarke and others knew.

‘‘It’s my birthday today, and that’s the best present I’ve had in years.’’

Peter Gogarty called it ‘‘a wonderful, wonderful day’’, after years of guilt that he could have protected other boys, including Daniel Feenan, if he had reported Fletcher’s child sex offences against him.

‘‘If people in the church knew about Jim Fletcher – and I know they did – then they should have done something about him. But they didn’t, and now people are finally being called to account,’’ Mr Gogarty said.

The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, headed by Deputy Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, was already investigating matters relating to another Hunter paedophile priest, Denis McAlinden, after allegations raised by Hunter Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.

The inquiry has been extended by six months to the end of September. Public submissions have also been extended until March 1.

The first hearing is on February13. Further dates, including hearings in Newcastle, will be advised. Ms Cunneen will report to the government by September30. She encouraged people and organisations with information to come forward.

‘‘I am acutely aware of the sensitivities of the issues before the inquiry and the intense public interest in the final report,’’ Ms Cunneen said.

‘‘I would like to take the opportunity to assure those affected that we will do whatever we can to ensure that anybody who has information relevant to the inquiry will be heard.’’

The changes authorise the commission to share information with the national Royal Commission into Child Abuse, including referring evidence.

Daniel Feenan.

Daniel Feenan.

Peter Gogarty.

Peter Gogarty.