AUSTRALIA’S first commission of inquiry into child sex abuse in the Catholic Church will be held at Newcastle Supreme Court from May 6.
The NSW inquiry, which precedes and runs separately from the broader federal royal commission into child sex abuse, expects to hear some evidence without the public or media being present, the commission confirmed during a short hearing in Sydney on Monday.
Commissioner Margaret Cunneen will rule on hearing in-camera testimony from some witnesses to avoid prejudicing any potential future criminal proceedings, the hearing was told.
The NSW commission of inquiry will consider police investigations of the late Hunter paedophile priests Denis McAlinden and Jim Fletcher from May 6 to 17, and Church handling of allegations involving the priests from June 24 to July 12.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell established the commission of inquiry after Hunter Chief Inspector Peter Fox’s open letter to the Premier in the Newcastle Herald in November last year, and the senior police officer’s appearance on the ABC Lateline program.
Chief Inspector Fox alleged the Catholic Church failed to report child sex allegations to police, failed to co-operate with police and alerted alleged offenders to possible police actions.
He also alleged police in 2010 ordered him to stop investigating Church handling of allegations involving Denis McAlinden.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a federal royal commission into child sexual abuse only days after Mr O’Farrell’s decision, and only a few months after the first devastating evidence before a Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sex abuse involving Victorian churches.