ONE of the Hunter’s most notorious paedophile priests died without being charged in NSW after late, inaccurate and unchallenged reports by the Catholic Church to NSW Police under a controversial ‘‘blind reporting’’ agreement.
Father Denis McAlinden was twice reported to NSW Police in 1999 and 2003, under a process that allowed the church to argue in public that it was assisting police to deal with offenders.
But he died in a church-run home in Western Australia in 2005 without being charged, and reports about many other Catholic offenders were not investigated, because the lack of victims’ names and details reduced the reports to the level of hearsay.
Survivors Network spokeswoman Nicky Davis has demanded an explanation and apology from the NSW Police Force after the Police Integrity Commission’s Operation Protea report, released on Friday, found police ignored internal legal advice that ‘‘blind reporting’’ breached section 316 of the NSW Crimes Act.
The section deals with concealing serious crimes.
‘‘I can’t believe that people aren’t up in arms about this,’’ Ms Davis said.
‘‘Would NSW Police leave bikie gangs with power over information about crimes, yet they thought it was okay for the church to control information about its own criminals.
‘‘Victims of serious crimes have been denied justice, and a part of that is because of the actions, and the inaction, of police.’’
The Police Integrity Commission found Inspector Beth Cullen, a police representative on the church’s Professional Standards Resource Group between 1998 and 2005, engaged in police misconduct for not challenging church advice that victims in ‘‘blind reports’’ did not want to speak to police.
The commission also found some victims might have been willing to speak to police.
In May last year NSW Special Commission of Inquiry chair Margaret Cunneen, SC, found former Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone was aware of allegations against Denis McAlinden from two victims in 1995.
He did not report the allegations until 1999, after the ‘‘blind reporting’’ process was in place, and did not provide the victims’ details.
Despite acknowledging in 2002 that the McAlinden file was ‘‘so big you can’t jump over it’’, he restricted his 1999 ‘‘blind report’’ to the two victims’ allegations.
In June 2002 Bishop Malone received details from another McAlinden victim, but did not arrange to have the allegation reported to police through the ‘‘blind reporting’’ process until March 2003.
He failed to advise police the victim was willing to have her complaint used to corroborate the evidence of other McAlinden victims.
“The information Malone conveyed to police about (the victim) was both late and inaccurate,” Ms Cunneen said.
Retired barrister and author of the book Potiphar’s Wife , about the Vatican’s history on child sexual abuse, Kieran Tapsell, said ‘‘blind reporting’’ was a matter that needed to be investigated by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
Mr Tapsell said the Operation Protea report also cast doubt over Commissioner Margaret Cunneen’s finding in 2014 that only one senior Catholic Church official should have been charged with concealing the child sex crimes of another priest.
Ms Cunneen controversially recommended against charging Australian Catholic Bishops Conference secretary Father Brian Lucas for failing to report Denis McAlinden to police because of his ‘‘reasonable excuse’’ that a victim did not want to report the matter.
The Police Integrity Commission on Friday found a child sex victim’s wish not to report allegations to police was not a ‘‘reasonable excuse’’.
Mr Tapsell said the conflict did not mean that Ms Cunneen was wrong, but ‘‘ultimately it may be for a higher court to decide’’.
In June last year the Australian Lawyers Alliance also challenged Ms Cunneen’s ruling on ‘‘reasonable excuse’’.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said Commissioner Andrew Scipione was expected to respond to the report this week.
NSW Greens Justice spokesman David Shoebridge said it was essential that there was ‘‘an unambiguous statement from NSW Police that this practice ends’’, after the Police Integrity Commission recommended an urgent review.
‘‘Blind reporting lets perpetrators off,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
‘‘It should never be accepted that the institutions that allowed the abuse should mediate the victims’ relationships with police.’’
■ All of Victoria’s Anglican dioceses have agreed to adopt company status, complying with a 2013 parliamentary report on child sexual abuse.
The largest diocese – Melbourne – voted at special synod meeting on Saturday to follow the diocese of Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Wangaratta to become incorporated.
Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said it would improve transparency and governance, and end confusion over whether victims could seek compensation as it ‘‘sets up an entity that is plainly legally responsible’’. AAP