"NSW police officer accused of shredding documents on child sexual abuse"
- Category: Police corruption and brutality
- Created: Thursday, 20 June 2013 23:30
- Written by Emily Bourke - ABC
ELIZABETH JACKSON: The official inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Hunter region of New South Wales is now examining whether police destroyed crucial evidence.
A Lateline investigation has found a senior serving police officer was part of a key Catholic Church expert panel set up to deal with sex abuse cases.
It's been revealed that over a five year period that police officer attended monthly meetings and then shredded all documents and records of the meetings.
Emily Bourke reports.
EMILY BOURKE: For several years, a senior policewoman with the NSW Sex Crimes Squad sat on the internal Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church.
That group met for several hours each month to discuss specific cases of abuse by clergy and others.
The ABC's Lateline program has revealed internal police documents which show that the New South Wales policewoman shredded all records of meetings held between 1998 and 2003.
DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: Why would the police be a party to such an arrangement where they are effectively cleansing the record for the Church?
EMILY BOURKE: Greens MP David Shoebridge obtained the internal police documents through Freedom of Information.
DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: I have never heard of any other instance where senior police are getting regular reports of serious crimes and retaining no records of the crime. There is no explanation in the documents we've got about who told her to shred the documents, whether she told her superiors about the shredding of the documents.
EMILY BOURKE: The Police Minister Michael Gallacher wants an urgent briefing from the Commissioner of New South Wales Police
And others are asking questions too.
NICHOLAS COWDERY: In the way that this association was conducted, it seems to have been pretty cosy.
EMILY BOURKE: Nicholas Cowdery is a former director of public prosecutions in New South Wales.
NICHOLAS COWDERY: For official involvement of a government agency in an activity of that kind not to be documented is quite unusual and improper.
EMILY BOURKE: New South Wales Police have issued a statement saying that the original documents are held by the Church and only copies were shredded.
The statement goes on to say that the Special Commission of Inquiry investigating sexual abuse in the Hunter region will now look at the circumstances surrounding the appointment of a police officer to the Catholic Church's expert panel and how that group operated.
The director of the Professional Standards Office for the Catholic Church, Michael Salmon, has confirmed his office holds the only record of the minutes of the meetings.
He says the documents will not be released unless requested by the Royal Commission. He told Lateline it was part of the usual procedure that participants returned or destroyed documents relating to this expert panel.
Lawyer Judy Courtin has been researching sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. She says the processes and the composition of the Church's internal committees should be made public.
JUDY COURTIN: If that was going on, what else has been going on? Who are the other members on these resource group committees? What's going on in other states and territories? And just even their basic processes and procedures would be something that they need to now make public.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Lawyer Judy Courtin ending that report from Emily Bourke.