Sunday 26th of June 2022

heroine ....

heroine ....

from Crikey ….

Accidental crusader: how a regional reporter prompted a royal commission


When Joanne McCarthy was named journalist of the year at the Quill Awards earlier this month, more than a few of the assorted flacks and hacks at Melbourne's Crown Palladium stared at each other in surprise.

Who was this reporter from The Newcastle Herald? And how had she beaten a field of well-known contenders - The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont, Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker from The Age, and last year’s Gold Walkley winner Steve Pennells - to win the coveted prize?

While McCarthy is little-known outside the NSW Hunter Valley, she's revered by those who have fought for justice on behalf of the victims of clergy sexual abuse. Detective Inspector Peter Fox - who spent 20 years investigating paedophile priests in the Hunter - says she can take more credit than any other journalist for the fact a royal commission into child sex abuse will begin next week. "It was absolutely pivotal," Fox said of McCarthy's reporting. "It can not be overestimated."

Neither can the obstacles she's faced. Priests sermonised against the paper from their pulpits. One bishop issued multiple defamation threats. Police bosses ordered officers, including Fox, not to speak to her. The Herald's letter page filled with complaints from Catholics unwilling or unable to believe what they were reading. A nasty whispering campaign painted her as biased and unhinged.

"There were a lot of people within the church and police happy to run the line that I was mad, that I was obsessed," McCarthy said. "If you’re trying to shut something down, the quickest and easiest way to do that is to suggest someone is a nut." Said Fox: "If she’d been someone with less integrity and fortitude, she'd have given up."

There were other difficulties. Roger Brock, editor of the paper from 2009-2012, is the brother of Father Peter Brock, a Newcastle Catholic priest charged with 22 child sex offences in late 2008. Though the paper never wavered in its reporting, this complicated their relationship immensely. All charges against Peter Brock were later withdrawn.

McCarthy declined to comment on the issue to Crikey. But in her Quills acceptance speech, she described Roger Brock as "one of the most decent and honest men I have ever met, who had to be the editor while I was writing these things under truly extraordinary circumstances".



McCarthy, 54, grew up on the NSW central coast, the eldest of 11 children in a family of practising Catholics. Her parents, she notes, were from the "enlightened" school of Catholicism, believers in social justice and questioning authority. After lengthy stints at free community papers The Gosford Star and Central Coast Express Advocate, she joined The Newcastle Herald in 2002. Her reporting on clergy sex abuse began with a seemingly minor tip-off, but soon led to a major scandal. In 2007 she revealed, with help from victim support group Broken Rites, the crimes committed by Father Denis Mcalinden, believed to be the worst paedophile priest in the nation's history. In May 2010 she handed church documents to the NSW Police - including a letter from a former bishop urging Mcalinden to agree to a "speedy" defrocking, assuring him "your good name will be protected by the confidential nature of this process".

"It was the definition of a cover-up," she said. Yet a year later, the police had little to show for their investigation. So a furious McCarthy filed a Police Integrity Commission complaint. She's the first to admit her involvement in the story has gone far beyond that of a detached journalist. She's become an agitator, a crusader, a confidante.

"I can really understand other journalists not understanding - or possibly even being a bit concerned - about some of the stuff I had to do which was clearly advocacy," she said.

McCarthy estimates she's interviewed 200 victims. Some are addicted to drugs and alcohol; others have depression and other forms of mental illness. Much of her time has been spent connecting them with a trusted network of lawyers, police officers, support groups.

"I have had many, many, many people say to me I was the first person they have ever talked to about it ... That is a crushing weight," she said. "Is it reasonable to stand by and say, 'I’m a journalist,' and not get involved? I think that’s where my Catholic upbringing comes into it in a weird way. You have to leave your ego behind and think: what is the right thing to do here? If you’re just sitting there wallowing in it with them, you’re part of the problem. That’s where the impulse to be an advocate comes from."



Last August, McCarthy found herself in bed at 2am unable to sleep. Only days before, one of the victims she had interviewed, 45-year old John Pirona, had been found dead in his car. The letter he left for his family ended with the words: "Too much pain"

McCarthy grabbed a notepad and started penning an opinion piece. "There will be a royal commission on the church's handling of child sex abuse," she argued, "because there must be."

Herald editor Chad Watson was so moved he decided to run it as the start of an all-out campaign, called "Shine the Light", calling for a royal commission. The paper encouraged readers to sign petitions and write to their MPs. McCarthy travelled to NSW Parliament to lobby politicians (most didn't want to hear about it).

Last September, she helped organise a community forum at the Newcastle Panthers club. John Pirona's father, Lou, spoke; so did former Wallaby Peter Fitzsimons. Peter Fox was in the crowd as an observer. But when Fitzsimons quoted Edmund Burke - "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Fox spontaneously jumped onto the stage and took the microphone.

Acknowledging he was going "outside the rules" by speaking publicly, Fox told the crowd he did not accept Premier Barry O’Farrell’s comments that "the police force has it all under control". "It was a life-changing moment for me," Fox reflected.

In November the Herald published a letter from Fox to O'Farrell begging for a royal commission - a call he repeated that night on Lateline. The next day, O'Farrell announced a special commission of inquiry into police handling of abuse by Catholic Church clergy in the Hunter Valley.



Three days later, McCarthy did something she rarely does: she drove to the Herald's Newcastle office (she normally works from home). There she got a text - "Get to a TV NOW" - and ran into the editor's office to see Julia Gillard on the screen announcing a national royal commission.

"The only words I heard of her speech were 'child s-xual abuse'. As soon as she said those words, I fell apart. I lost it," she said.

Her editor, too, was in tears; so was the paper's news director. Soon, it seemed, half the newsroom had crammed into the office - crying, hugging, smiling. A week before, the last of the paper's 41 staff who had been made redundant earlier that year left the company - including one veteran Herald veteran with an inoperable brain tumour.

"Every shitty thing that could have happened to the paper last year happened," McCarthy said. "There were so many emotions tied up in that day. There was a lot of joy, but also a lot of grief."

Despite the accolades now coming her way, McCarthy has no plans to seek more readers and more money at, say, a metropolitan paper. She knows where she belongs.

"I'm a regional person [and] I think only a regional paper could have done this - it went way too much outside what is normal behaviour for a metro," she said. "The truth is the truth. It doesn't matter where it appears. You just have to keep banging away."


the truth is the truth...

An AO and OAM for Joanne McCarthy... Same for Peter Fox... And as a believer he should get a Sainthood as well.

shredding the sins of the church...

New South Wales Police has admitted all records of a senior officer's involvement with a key Catholic Church body set up to deal with sexual abuse cases have been shredded.

This includes briefing papers and all documentation over a five-year period from 1998 to 2003.

The revelations come from Freedom of Information (FOI) documents obtained by the ABC's Lateline program.

The top level group established by the Catholic Church's bishops is known as the Professional Standards Resource Group (PSRG).

It was created in 1997 in response to the Wood Royal Commission into the police and paedophilia, and its key function was to advise the church on specific cases involving clergy and others.

Earlier this year, a NSW Police spokesman told Lateline all the information provided by the church to the serving officer was anonymous.

The names of the victims and the priests had been removed, allegedly at the request of victims who the church said did not want police involvement.

The documents revealed on Lateline were lodged by NSW Greens MLC, David Shoebridge.

They reveal that Inspector Beth Cullen, who was then a senior sergeant with the Sex Crimes Unit, shredded all documents pertaining to her role with the PSRG from 1998 to 2003.


read more:

a gold gong for joanne...

The newspaper reporter whose stories on child sex abuse in the Catholic Church prompted a royal commission has won Australia's highest journalism honour.

Joanne McCarthy from the Newcastle Herald was presented with the Gold Walkley Award at a ceremony in Brisbane last night.

She won the award for her coverage on the sexual abuse of children, primarily by Catholic clergy in the New South Wales Newcastle and Hunter Valley region.

McCarthy thanked the victims and their families for trusting her to tell their stories.

"This was about a hell of a lot of individuals in the end across the country who just decided enough was enough," she said.

"It just shows you don't need an army, you just need people believing that something had to be done and it was wonderful to be a part of it."

a heavy report against a hero...


A Special Commission of Inquiry into allegations of a cover-up of child sexual abuse claims in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has released findings that are damning of the man who claimed to blow the whistle.

The four-volume report, three volumes of which have been released by Commissioner Margaret Cunneen SC, uncovered no evidence to show that senior police ever tried to ensure child abuse offences were not properly investigated.

It found Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox was not a credible witness and that it was appropriate for senior police to instruct Chief Inspector Fox to cease his own investigations.


One has to say here that Gus understands slightly differently from this interpretation of this report. In fact without Peter Fox, there would not be any Royal Commission into sexual abuse of minors in the Church in the Newcastle diocese... And we would be the poorer for it. What has happened is that Peter Fox, himself a policeman, strongly "accused" the New South Wales police from colluding with the church to prevent the stories of sexual abuse getting out. 

Peter Fox might have been wrong on this aspect of the cases, but not wrong on the abuses he exposed.

In fact as he might have only been wrong about his feeling the police colluded with the church, it is possible that some of the police seemed to have been disinterested in pursuing cases of Church abuse... 


Peter Fox made this statement — possibly knowing what was coming to him, as it is unbecoming for a policeman to rat on his colleagues:


"Throughout the Special Commission I felt more like a criminal on trial than a witness as hostile treatment continued over an unprecedented and oppressive fourteen days of repetitive cross-examination leaving me to question its purpose," it said.

"I believed the central issue for the Special Commission should have been the future protection of children, but that somehow appears to have been misplaced.

"Conversely my treatment by the Royal Commission has been exemplary.

"Numerous survivors and support organisations have echoed my own experience.

"I am at a loss as to what the Special Commission attained that could not have been achieved by the Royal Commission.

"In time that may become apparent. However, after the example of my ordeal I can only imagine the effect on others who might have contemplated coming forward.  



should be investigated by the federal royal commission...

Evidence by a whistleblower, Peter Fox, about the alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church’s Maitland-Newcastle diocese should be investigated by the federal royal commission, the NSW Greens and survivor advocates say.

The NSW special commission of inquiry found that Detective Inspector Fox, who made allegations of a cover-up, was an unsatisfactory witness.

A small band of Fox's supporters, who are challenging the inquiry’s findings, including abuse survivors’ families, rallied outside NSW Parliament House on Saturday.

The four-volume report, delivered on Friday, uncovered no evidence to show that senior police officers had tried to block investigations into child abuse.

It found that Fox was not a credible witness and it was appropriate for police to instruct him to cease his own investigations.

An advocate for survivors of child abuse, Carol Clarke, said there were flaws in the way Fox’s evidence had been treated, and the royal commission needed to examine that.

A fellow advocate, Nicky Davis, echoed the call for the royal commission to get to the bottom of what had gone on in the diocese.

“We believe Mr Fox's reputation will be restored when the full truth is known,” she said at the rally. “The narrow terms of reference of the commission of inquiry really didn’t allow the full truth to be known.”

A NSW Greens MP, David Shoebridge, who attended the rally, said Fox had been prevented from presenting large parts of the evidence he wanted to give to the inquiry.

“The federal Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] is really the only avenue to get that full, that balanced, understanding of the actions of the police and the church,” Shoebridge told ABC Radio.

The special commission of inquiry was announced by the then NSW premier, Barry O'Farrell, in November 2012, following explosive allegations made by Fox to the media.

He alleged the Catholic church had covered up evidence about paedophile priests in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese in the Hunter region of NSW.

the commission was set up to show the police was clean...


A paedophile priest victim, whose evidence at the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry reduced people to tears, is ''hurt'' and ''disappointed'' by findings he says lack balance about Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox and what he represents for child sexual abuse victims.

''I gave evidence to give a balanced view on what Peter has done,'' said Daniel Feenan of Maitland. ''I hoped it would be reflected in the findings and it hasn't been, which is why I'm speaking now.''


Mr Feenan's statements to Detective Fox in 2003 led to the conviction of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher, one of two priests who were the subject of the inquiry.

''Peter needed to be made to account for what he put out there, but knowing the man, the reasoning behind what he did, I've got nothing but admiration for him,'' Mr Feenan said. ''He was the shock we needed to get a commission.''

Commissioner Margaret Cunneen, SC, found the church first knew about Fletcher's offending in 1976, the year Mr Feenan was born.

But findings that Detective Fox was ''deliberately untruthful'', had ''exaggerated'' evidence and developed an ''obsession about the Catholic church and alleged conspiracies involving senior police'' were the overwhelming messages from the inquiry, in part because of the way the NSW Police Force conducted its case, Mr Feenan said.

''I don't think the police in general come out of the commission of inquiry well,'' he said.

Read more:

See also: passing the buck...


a sorry, squalid and scandalous saga of priest and kids...

The former NSW premier, Barry O'Farrell, has called for a high-ranking Catholic priest to be sacked from a key leadership position for not reporting child sexual abuse to police.

In a speech to parliament on Tuesday night, O’Farrell called for Father Brian Lucas, the general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, to be stood down.

The former leader made the comments while criticising the church's response to Commissioner Margaret Cunneen's damning report in late May into an alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

Lucas gave evidence in Canberra on Tuesday at the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

"He is also a lawyer, which is a relevant fact because he, more than anyone involved in the sorry, squalid and scandalous saga, should have respected the law and reported illegal activities to police," O'Farrell said.

"It is time the Catholic bishops took a strong stand against clergy abuse within the church, sent a clear message about the responsibility of all its religious [members] to report such crimes to police and extended to victims and their families every possible support and redress.

read more:

at risk from Brother Kostka's "honesty"...


Concern over the Catholic Marist Brothers' indemnity against legal action by victims of child sexual abuse was the subject of an email sent by a lawyer for Brothers being questioned at an inquiry.

The email, produced on the last day of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse hearings in Canberra, was sent to the Catholic Marist Brothers in 2009, warning them about convicted paedophile Brother John Kostka Chute.

In it, lawyer Howard Harrison warned Marist Brothers provincial Jeffrey Crowe and director of professional standards Brother Alexis Turton that the Brothers could be at risk from Brother Kostka's "honesty".

"Just back from Canberra," Mr Harrison wrote in the email after visiting Brother Kostka in jail.

"Regrettably quite upfront about various discussions with provincials over the years. I think we will have some problems with indemnity in due course.

"CCI [Catholic Church Insurance] will probably argue that Provincial response was inadequate - should have followed up, taken him [Brother Kostka] out of school...

"We would need to keep him well away from the legal arena upon release."

It continued: "[The] trouble is fundamentally he has high honesty and integrity levels, and all of my 'suggestions' about not dumping on others excessively go out the window pretty quickly once there is a conversation under way."

Brother Kostka taught at Catholic Schools across the country for more than 20 years and in 2008 was jailed for the sexual abuse of six children.

A further 46 people have come forward to seek compensation for abuse by Brother Kostka.

The Catholic Church and the Marist Brothers both claimed they had little to no prior knowledge of the abuse, and their insurance company was required to cover the compensation payouts.

But Brother Kostka maintains that he did ask senior Marist Brothers several times over the years for help with his problems.

Marist Brother denies cover-up over paedophile

During the final minutes of the hearings in Canberra, the lawyer who produced the email, Peter O'Brien, put to Brother Turton that the email exposed a cover-up.

"He [Mr Harrison] is saying to you in this email, 'We need to keep him [Brother Kostka] away from the legal arena because he is going to say that the provincials knew, that the Marist brothers knew, he was a sexual abuser of children'?" Mr O'Brien asked.

"That 'When he gets out of jail, let's keep him away from the civil litigation that is going, because he may well say things that are honest?', correct?"

But Brother Turton denied that was correct.

read more:


pell: priests are like truck drivers with pricks...


Support groups for child sexual abuse victims have expressed their outrage after Cardinal George Pell's testimony at the royal commission in Melbourne last night.

Cardinal Pell appeared at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse via videolink from the Vatican.

Saying it would not be appropriate for legal culpability to be "foisted" on church leaders, he drew an analogy between the Catholic Church and a trucking company, citing a hypothetical example of a case involving a woman who was molested by a truck driver.

"It would not be appropriate, because it's contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible," Cardinal Pell said.

"Similarly with the church and the head of any other organisation.

"If every precaution has been taken, no warning has been given, it is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.

read more:



This week’s program goes behind the scenes with a tenacious regional newspaper reporter who last year won Australia’s top journalism award.

Joanne McCarthy’s exposure of a national scandal emerging in the Newcastle and Hunter Valley region played a large part in the establishment of one of Australia’s biggest-ever Royal Commissions.

Her efforts so impressed former Prime Minister Julia Gillard that one of her last acts in office was to send a personal note to Ms McCarthy.

As this program reveals, it’s been a marathon effort for both Joanne McCarthy and some of those closest to her, including her parents and ten siblings....




See article at top... Please note that should a truck driver sexually abuse kids, the truck driver company does not have an investigation unit designed to cover up the "tracks". Nor would the company change the "route" of the truck driver so "he" could not be found... 

No. The police would get involved sooner than later because the kids would not be coerced into not saying anything to the police — or should they be — this could lead to massive inference with justice and subject to many years in prison.

But the church has DELIBERATELY covered the tracks, thus its truck drivers (the priests) and the company (the church) are all liable for the bad deeds.

hiding the bad deeds...

A crucial inquiry into the sexual exploitation of children in out-of-home care was allegedly delayed because of the refusal of the Victoria Department of Human Services to share information with the Child Safety Commissioner.

The inquiry, by the Commission for Children and Young People, was triggered by revelations that groups of paedophiles are targeting children living in residential care units across the state, using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes to lure them away from the units.

The ABC has obtained a briefing prepared for the former Minister for Community Services, Mary Wooldridge, shortly before the Coalition lost last month's state election.

In it, commission staff claim the inquiry had been delayed because of an inability to obtain timely and thorough information from the Department of Human Services.

"Specifically, the Commission has made repeated requests since March 2014 for the Department's monthly Performance Assurance and Compliance reports. The Commission has not been provided with the requested reports," the briefing said.

in remissionem peccatorum


Former Catholic priest and District Court judge Chris Geraghty says the charging of an Australian Archbishop over allegations he concealed child sex abuse in the 1970s is likely to lead to other charges against Catholic clergy embroiled in similar cases.

Archbishop Philip Wilson, who is on indefinite leave, has denied the allegations and said he will be defending them.

Mr Geraghty told Radio National's Religion and Ethics program the charging of Wilson was a big blow to the Catholic Church.

"If Philip Wilson is getting charged, there will be others I would think going to be charged too and they'd be running for cover worrying what's going to happen," he said.

"He's a very senior member of the clergy in Australia, he's now going to be standing up in court, he'll be addressed as the accused."

The charge relates to Wilson's time in the Hunter Valley in the 1970s when he was a junior priest.

At the time he lived and worked with paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.

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One certain person called Gus Leonisky knows a bit more about this "senior member of the clergy" but then one cannot fight some cases in court because "some" people are dead, and because the "Canon Law" provides a very thick impenetrable smokescreen...

Deus, Pater misericordiarum,
qui per mortem et resurrectionem Fílii sui
mundum sibi reconciliavit
et Spiritum Sanctum effudit
in remissionem peccatorum,

per ministerium Ecclesiae
tibi tribuat
et pacem...

Et ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis 
in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.



The really interesting bits are yet to come...

However, the judge thought a public hearing was warranted: “Given the seriousness of the facts asserted in the allegations, there is an obvious benefit in exposing the conduct to the public.”

In the meantime Icac has undertaken not to proceed with the public hearing into the allegations until the appeal has been determined.

If and when Icac’s hearing does get underway, many mysteries will no doubt to resolved: did Sophia Tilly really have chest pains? Why should a prosecutor advise someone not to take a breath test, when in the circumstances they would be taken to hospital and subject to a blood test? Who made the allegations about Cunneen and what was their agenda? And if Icac is prevented from holding its public inquiry, will the police investigate the allegations?

The really interesting bits are yet to come.

read more:


Between you, me and a sour lemon, I would suggest that Cunneen's legal team should give up attacking ICAC now... and leave the mud at the bottom... Should they try to push harder for whatever, read two comments above this one...

I mean... I know nothing but arguments that have not entered the fray so far might surface and make things far more uncomfortable for Margaret... My personal advice from a narrow window of dog's flees dwellings is to scratch the itch and then smile. Then walk off...

someone high up in the justice system is pulling strings?...


A former inspector of the Independent Commission Against Corruption has described a report by his successor on the failed inquiry into Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen as "flawed" and called for it to be withdrawn.

As ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham faces pressure to step down over her handling of the Cunneen inquiry, Harvey Cooper said a scathing report on the investigation had worked a "gross injustice to the ICAC and the commissioner" because they were not given an opportunity to respond to proposed findings.

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Gus: I know more but cannot say more... except to say Harvey Cooper is correct.

responding to findings...


The NSW corruption watchdog is to tender details of potentially explosive phone intercepts that prompted its investigation of Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen at a parliamentary inquiry preparing to grill its commissioner, Megan Latham, over the episode.

The sensational development, 48 hours before the highly anticipated public hearing, signals the Independent Commission Against Corruption is hitting back at a media campaign to discredit Ms Latham and the agency over its aborted attempt to investigate Ms Cunneen.

The ICAC on Tuesday sent what is being described as a "huge" volume of material to the public inquiry, before which Ms Latham and other senior staff are set to appear on Thursday.

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See comment above... As well some "explosive" affidavits might have made their way to the Royal Commission into Institutionalised Sexual Abuse in regard to Cunneen's prosecutor, judge and executioner job in the NSW commission into sexual abuse, I would believe was designed to exonerate the police.