A SENIOR police officer put in charge of Strike Force Lantle has told the Special Commission of Inquiry that he was ‘‘happy to take on the Catholic church’’ and his investigations weren’t deterred by the church’s might.
Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey has spent all morning on Thursday giving evidence to the inquiry, mostly under cross examination by counsel for Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox, Mark Cohen.
Mr Cohen asked Mr Humphrey if there was an unwillingness within the Newcastle police command to take on senior members of the Catholic church after they had received a report from journalist Joanne McCarthy which alleged impropriety by senior church members.
‘‘There was certainly no reluctance on my part,’’ Mr Humphrey said. ‘‘I was happy to take on the Catholic Church.’’
Later, counsel for Ms McCarthy, Alex Irving, asked Mr Humphrey if he agreed with the suggestion that in the year that police had the report, ‘‘not much was happening’’ within Strike Force Lantle, which was charged with investigating claims of sex abuse cover-ups within the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese.
Mr Humphrey said that when he was appointed to his role in overseeing the strike force, all three of Lantle’s officers were on extended sick leave.
Mr Humphrey was also questioned by Mr Cohen about why he held suspicions that Mr Fox was leaking information to the media, alleging that Mr Humphrey’s suspicions were ‘‘founded on the puff of a breeze’’.
Mr Humphrey rejected the suggestion, saying it was a belief widely held within police ranks that Mr Fox was leaking sensitive police information.
Asked to identify what the information was, and where in Ms McCarthy’s articles the information appeared, Mr Humphrey repeated earlier responses that articles ‘‘regarding this and other matters’’ had raised concern among police.
‘‘I suspected there was clearly an improper association [with the media],’’ Mr Humphrey said.
He went on to say that these matters ‘‘should not have been played out in the papers’’.
The inquiry, before Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, is expected to hear from other senior police officers on Thursday afternoon.