Reports mixed on Fox meeting

ARCHIVE of Herald reports

 IT was either fiery and hostile or cordial and straight forward.

It was a meeting between some of Newcastle’s senior police and Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox at Waratah police station on December 2, 2010.

One of the officers who attended, former Senior Sergeant Justin Quinn, told a Special Commission of Inquiry on Thursday that the meeting was ‘‘cordial’’ with Detective Fox being asked to hand over documents he had relating to allegations of sexual abuse cover-ups within the Catholic Church.

Detective Fox has a different version.

His barrister, Mark Cohen, suggested to Mr Quinn, who has since left the force, that Detective Fox said the ‘‘only reason why we’re here’’ is because of Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy.

Mr Cohen suggested there was a hostile exchange where Newcastle Local Area Commander Max Mitchell was angry and ordered Detective Fox to hand over the documents and not have any contact with Ms McCarthy.

Mr Cohen also suggested that Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said all inquiries from Ms McCarthy were to go through him and that Newcastle detectives would be handling the investigation.

Mr Quinn denied most of those assertions yesterday and was adamant that voices were not raised.

Assistant Commissioner Mitchell will no doubt be asked similar questions on Friday when he continues giving evidence before Commissioner Margaret Cunneen.

He said on Thursday that he did not order the search of Detective Fox’s desk in late 2010, which was carried out by two senior officers, but he said he later heard about it.

The inquiry also heard from the state’s most senior sex crimes investigator Detective Inspector Paul Jacob who said the brief of evidence that was prepared in relation to allegations of sexual abuse cover-ups was ‘‘amazing’’.

He said suggestions that the strike force that was established to investigate the claims was a ‘‘sham’’ and was ‘‘set up to fail’’ were ‘‘offensive and I feel very sorry for the police concerned’’.

The inquiry is expected to adjourn on Friday and resume on June 24.

FORCE:  Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell, right, and Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey. Picture: Darren Pateman

FORCE: Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell, right, and Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey. Picture: Darren Pateman

The hearings of the past fortnight have focused on the police investigation and claims by Detective Fox that he was ordered to stop investigating paedophile priests and allegations of cover-ups within the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.

Next month’s hearings are expected to focus on the conduct of the Catholic Church and its officials.

This story Reports mixed on Fox meeting first appeared on Newcastle Herald.