THE journalist at the centre of an inquiry into how police handled child sex abuse allegations within the Catholic church has denied colluding with whistleblower detective Peter Fox to withhold information from other police.
Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy has spent the morning under heavy cross examination from Wayne Roser SC, who is representing several senior police officers.
Mr Roser suggested that Ms McCarthy had refused to identify two witnesses at a meeting she had with former chief inspector Brad Tayler, but Ms McCarthy strongly denied the suggestion.
The meeting with Mr Tayler had been organised by then-Newcastle police commander Max Mitchell. In evidence provided on Monday, and again on Tuesday morning, Mr Tayler had asked Ms McCarthy for the names and numbers of other victims who she had spoken to.
Ms McCarthy told the inquiry today that she felt uncomfortable about that because the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the way another victim had been treated by police.
Ms McCarthy said it was ‘‘a live issue’’ that an abuse victim had contacted her upset and crying about the way in which police had treated her during an interview. She wanted that issue dealt with but said Mr Tayler wanted to talk about something else.
Ms McCarthy also rejected several suggestions by Mr Roser that she was colluding with Mr Fox. She strongly denied the claims, at one point saying that it had been ‘‘inferred’’ by police ‘‘right through this commission’’ that Mr Fox had been leaking her information.
‘‘I’m interested to know what information was being leaked to me because (I haven’t heard any specific detail yet),’’ she said.
She said she had grown ‘‘very aware’’ of strained relations between Mr Fox and other senior police officers, and conceded that Mr Fox was ‘‘obviously’’ trying to conceal some conversations he had with her, ‘‘but I didn’t want anything to do with that’’, she said.
‘‘My obligation was to the victims ... to make sure they were looked after by police.’’
The inquiry continues before commissioner Margaret Cunneen.