IF anyone wondered what was at stake in this Special Commission of Inquiry, they needed to look no further than the rafts of tables stacked with barristers between Commissioner Margaret Cunneen and the public gallery.
Most days, more than 18. Highly skilled, highly paid and highly charged.
Some, such as Julia Lonergan, SC, and Warwick Hunt, were there to assist the commissioner and lead witnesses through the mountainous volumes of evidence submitted to the inquiry. The remainder represented individual interests - the police, the top brass, the church, the top clergy, the Newcastle Herald.
This was round one. At stake was the public credibility of a police force faced with damning allegations that a "Catholic mafia" existed within its ranks and that a key detective was shut out of investigations by forces wanting to protect the Church.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox told the inquiry that he had become increasingly worried about collusion between senior police and senior clergy while investigating claims of child sex abuse within the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese.
Mr Fox spent the first five days of the inquiry in the witness box when hearings began on May 6. Hit after hit, those representing the police hammered his credibility, questioned his motives and his association with Newcastle Herald journalist Joanne McCarthy. He even copped a few serves from the commissioner for his use of Twitter during proceedings.
One after one, the region's top police brass took the witness stand. The two weeks of hearings were extended by a week to fit them in, winding up yesterday before the inquiry shifts its focus to what the Catholic Church knew, did and didn't do with paedophile priests.
Police argued consistently that Mr Fox had been leaking sensitive information to Ms McCarthy. Certainly, they were in contact. Certainly, Mr Fox himself agreed that he withheld information from his investigations away from police colleagues because he "just didn't trust them". He broke protocols, he lied, but the public gallery is still waiting for the details of what, if anything, he actually leaked to Ms McCarthy. Mr Fox, and indeed some senior police, agreed that Ms McCarthy knew more than them all put together.
Equally, the inquiry heard that the police strike force set up to investigate claims of cover-ups within the Church had become farcical; at one point all three officers assigned to it were on extended sick leave.
Mr Fox said the strike force was "set up to fail". Deliberately. The police denied that, arguing that it simply came down to resourcing and the historic nature of the allegations which were notoriously hard to prove.
By the time Ms McCarthy hit the stand this week, the public gallery had almost forgotten what the three weeks of hearings were about.
On Tuesday, counsel for Ms McCarthy, Winston Terracini, SC, rose, stood in his crocodile skin shoes, and scratched his beard.
He drew the inquiry's attention to Ms McCarthy's complaint to the Police Integrity Commission in 2011.
Twelve months earlier, Ms McCarthy got her hands on an internal report from the Catholic Church. It had come from a victim of historic sex abuse and was released from the Church's archives for the first time by then-Bishop of the Maitland-Newcastle diocese Michael Malone.
In it, senior clergy address the defrocking of paedophile priest Denis McAlinden, encouraging him, "for the good of the Church", "to go live somewhere pleasant, like the Philippines". McAlinden's "good name" will be protected by the confidential nature of the Church's process, it said.
"If that isn't trying to protect a paedophile, I don't know what is," Mr Terracini boomed.
Ms McCarthy, who had spent six years investigating the Church and its demons, gave the report to police. And that's where it sat for a year.
Suddenly, everyone remembered why they were there, and the long-suffering public gallery got a head start on round two, which will kick off in Newcastle on Monday.
The inquiry will take its blowtorch off the police and Mr Fox, and onto the Church. It will seek to determine if the Church, or its officials, co-operated with police investigations into child sex abuse within its ranks, whether it hindered investigations or covered up criminal offences.
If the report given to police by Ms McCarthy is anything to go by, it's going to be a long and unholy fortnight.