AFTER a year of waiting for police to act on their investigations into alleged child abuse cover-ups within the Catholic Church, journalist Joanne McCarthy took her concerns to the Police Integrity Commission.
Making her much-anticipated appearance before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle yesterday, the Newcastle Herald journalist said her motivation stemmed from her desire to support abuse victims, one of whom had complained about how police had treated her.
She also told the inquiry that she had a heated conversation with then-Newcastle police commander and now Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell.
"I rang him to get angry with him and to let him know that I wasn't happy [about the way that an abuse victim had been treated by police]," Ms McCarthy told the inquiry.
Ms McCarthy said she first met the victim, known only as AL, through her contact with another victim in 2007.
By 2010, the victim had decided that she would make her complaint to Strike Force Lantle, the police body that had been charged with investigating child sex abuse matters within the Maitland and Newcastle Catholic diocese and subsequent alleged cover-ups by senior members of the clergy.
After meeting police, the victim phoned Ms McCarthy.
"She was very upset, crying, and talking about walking out of the interview," Ms McCarthy said.
It was shortly afterwards that Ms McCarthy phoned Mr Mitchell to complain about the way police had handled the complaint.
She said he had told her that the police officer who conducted the interview didn't have experience with child sex abuse matters, but he suggested that Ms McCarthy meet with senior police to find a way forward.
Ms McCarthy said Mr Mitchell suggested she "give them some tips" about dealing with sex abuse victims, which she had thought was "bizarre".
Mr Mitchell did not attend the meeting, but former chief inspector Brad Tayler did, asking McCarthy for the names and numbers of other victims who had contacted her.
Ms McCarthy said the request "threw her" and that she and Mr Tayler had reached an impasse at the meeting, which was decidedly unfruitful.
In other evidence yesterday, she rejected suggestions made during earlier hearings that she added to or edited statements prepared by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, and denied being "in league" with him.
"My anger with police at that stage was how AL had been treated," she said.
"Fox was angry about not being included in the investigation, but that was just his position and [not mine]."
She agreed with a suggestion that part of Mr Fox's concerns stemmed from relationship issues with other police.
In an email sent to Ms McCarthy from Mr Fox's private email address, Mr Fox said "the pricks can shove it" after learning that he would no longer be part of the police investigation.
He also sent her an email explaining how to obliterate an email trail, which she said she did not follow, because she was not technically competent to do so and "as a journalist you don't get rid of things".
Asked why she sought the assistance of Mr Fox in the first instance, Ms McCarthy said that he had "seemed pretty keen" while other police "weren't so keen" to pursue the matter.
By April 2011 Ms McCarthy wrote a story in the Herald which revealed that all three police officers assigned to Strike Force Lantle were off on sick leave.
A year had passed since the strike force had been established, and while abuse victims appeared to be much happier with the way they had been treated, police investigations appeared to have ground to a halt and she "wasn't happy about the way that investigations had gone".
Ms McCarthy, who supplied 1½ boxes of statements and emails relating to her investigation to the inquiry, will continue to give evidence when the inquiry continues before Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC today.