INQUIRY: Fox admits thin blue lie

SIDELINED:  Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves court after the second day of the inquiry into police handling of abuse. Picture: Darren Pateman
SIDELINED: Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves court after the second day of the inquiry into police handling of abuse. Picture: Darren Pateman

CONVINCED that moves to stop his investigation into the cover-up of paedophile Catholic priests were ‘‘sinister’’, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox lied to colleagues, breached police protocols and grew convinced that his work was being sabotaged.

‘‘The pricks can shove it,’’ he wrote in a personal diary only hours after he had been told by a superior to cease his investigations.

Mr Fox spent his second day before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle yesterday, admitting that he breached police protocols and directions, and describing a strikeforce set up to investigate Catholic Church cover-ups as ‘‘a sham’’.

Under heavy questioning from Counsel Assisting, Julia Lonergan SC, Mr Fox admitted that he lied to police colleagues about the whereabouts of victim statements that he was asked to bring to a meeting in December 2010.

On Monday he told the inquiry that he had inadvertently left a folder containing statements from alleged abuse victims on his desk, but yesterday he conceded that he had deliberately left them behind.

‘‘You deliberately kept statements you had gathered to yourself?’’ Ms Lonergan asked Mr Fox. ‘‘Why did you lie yesterday and say you forgot to take them?’’

‘‘I may have misheard yesterday,’’ Mr Fox replied, saying he was confused about which documents he was being questioned about.

‘‘I intentionally left [the documents] behind because I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to surrender them [to the meeting].’’

‘‘So you lied to police at that meeting?’’ Ms Lonergan asked.

‘‘Yes, absolutely,’’ Mr Fox replied, adding that he was still ‘‘suspicious’’ of the motives of police at the meeting.

Mr Fox said he was livid when told by Superintendent Max Mitchell at the meeting that his investigations would stop, and that he should cease having any contact with media, specifically Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.

Mr Fox said he could not understand why he, who had been investigating matters relating to child sex abuse within the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, would be excluded from any strikeforce and replaced with ‘‘junior officers’’. He identified former Superintendent Mitchell and Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey as being instrumental in his removal.

‘‘If this was any sort of decent strikeforce I’d have been considered an asset,’’ Mr Fox said.

Mr Fox also conceded that he breached four directions given to him by Superintendent Mitchell after the 2010 meeting. Most significantly, he continued talking and sharing information with journalist McCarthy, and he also had some contact with sex abuse victims.

‘‘In my opinion, cutting out Joanne McCarthy [from the investigation], given the information she had, was corrupt, yes,’’ Mr Fox said when asked about his ongoing communication with  McCarthy.

Mr Fox said his standing down ‘‘confirmed his suspicions’’ that his investigation was being ‘‘sabotaged’’. He said he lied to colleagues about not having any contact with McCarthy ‘‘because I was concerned, and I still am very concerned, about the conduct of some police’’.

He said he was particularly angry that Superintendent Mitchell had stopped him contacting  victims.

‘‘I said, ‘These people have been through hell, they have trusted me and I promised them I would see this through’,’’ Mr Fox said.

‘‘I sat with one woman for 28 hours taking a statement. I told Superintendent Mitchell that I would need to inform those people that I was no longer part of the investigation and he [allowed me to do that].’’

The inquiry will this morning hear from former police officer and now state MP for Dubbo Troy Grant.

On Monday Mr Fox told the inquiry it was Mr Grant who had warned him about the ‘‘Catholic mafia’’ that he claimed existed within Newcastle’s police ranks.

Clarification

PETER Fox was quoted yesterday as saying Detective Chief Inspector Brad Tayler did not want to investigate claims of a cover-up and ‘‘wanted it to go away’’. Mr Fox said the claim had come from Joanne McCarthy and was not said by Mr Tayler.

Additionally, Superintendent Max Mitchell was incorrectly identified as Superintendent Bill Mitchell.

This story INQUIRY: Fox admits thin blue lie first appeared on Newcastle Herald.

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