FOR all its cast of characters, this Special Commission of Inquiry into the police handling of "certain child sexual abuse allegations" in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has a few star witnesses.
In an earlier bank of sittings, it was Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, whose allegations of collusion between church figures and senior police led to the inquiry in the first place.
Yesterday afternoon, though, it was the turn of Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy, whose six years of reporting on child sexual abuse has "shone the light" on a previously hidden shame.
As the committee heard, Ms McCarthy won the 2012 Graham Perkin Australian Journalist of the Year award in March this year for her body of work on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in the Hunter Valley.
Until now, Commissioner Margaret Cunneen had been hearing things discussed from the police's point of view. Mr Fox might have a different opinion from many of his colleagues, but they are all still police.
With Ms McCarthy in the stand, it was time to hear about the investigation from a journalist's point of view.
Yesterday morning, as Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Little (the head of Strike Force Lantle in 2010) gave evidence, about 20 people watched from the public gallery at the rear of the Church Street court room.
By mid-afternoon, Ms McCarthy had a gallery of about 30, and the full attention of the bar tables full of legal counsel.
Ms McCarthy was questioned at length about her relationship with Mr Fox, and the motivation for writing her articles. Despite a long career in journalism, Ms McCarthy said she had little to do with police officers until the first of her paedophile stories in 2007.
Even as her dealings with Mr Fox became more frequent, the main thing in her mind was the need to "help the victims".
In her dealings with other police, she wanted them to "jump the hurdle", to recognise the criminality of the priests involved and to not excuse things "because it's the Church".
Mr Little, who was joined in the court room by a group of senior police, said he was "mortified" to hear Mr Fox alleging that Lantle was set up to fail.
His quote - that Mr Fox had "ridden to glory on a saddle of lies" - was one of the best lines of the day. Outside the hearing, Mr Fox said he was not surprised by the evidence his fellow police had given about him.