Read the transcripts:
SCARCE police resources hampered investigations of child sex abuse allegations against Catholic priests in the NSW Hunter Region, a special commission of inquiry has been told.
NSW Assistant Police Commissioner Carlene York, who was the northern region commander in 2010, told the inquiry today a shortage of police at that time had reduced her options for such a complex and potentially lengthy investigation.
Only Newcastle and Lake Macquarie police commands had the manpower to possibly do the job and both had numerous officers on sick leave.
‘‘In March, when I took over, the whole region had significant resource problems. All the commands had resource problems,’’ she told Special Commissioner Margaret Cunneen on the seventh day of the inquiry into how police and Catholic church officials handled child sex allegations.
The commission is focusing on allegations involving serial sex offender Father Denis McAlinden and convicted paedophile Father James Fletcher, both now dead.
It is also looking at why Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox was stopped from investigating paedophile priests, and his allegations of a church cover-up.
Inspector Fox was working at the Port Stephens police station in 2010 when he investigated matters involving McAlinden, Fletcher and other priests and wrote a report that led ultimately to the establishment of a police strike force to investigate allegations of child sex abuse by certain priests.
After Inspector Fox handed his report to senior Hunter Valley police, it took at least five months before Ms York formally decided to establish a strike force.
Under cross-examination by Inspector Fox’s barrister, Mark Cohen, Ms York said she had never considered basing the paedophile investigation at Port Stephens as the command did not have enough staff for the task and she had no one she could send there to assist.
Ms York said Newcastle police command was the ultimate choice, despite its workload problems, as it had more officers than other Hunter area commands and the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese office was in Newcastle.