ARCHIVE of Herald reports
TRANSCRIPTS AND COURT EXHIBITS
POLICE whistleblower Peter Fox has been questioned at length over his reaction to gay pornography found at the Lochinvar presbytery a few months after Father Jim Fletcher took up duties there as a priest.
In a session of cross examination before lunch on Tuesday, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox was taken through evidence he had previously given to the Special Commission of Inquiry sitting in Newcastle.
Mr Fox had said previously that a lay worker had found gay pornography in the presbytery and that Mr Fox believed it had belonged to Fletcher, who was subsequently convicted of abusing an altar boy and who died in jail in 2009.
But counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan, put it to him that he had no evidence that proved the pornography belonged to Fletcher, and that another priest, Father Desmond Harrigan, had told him it belonged to him.
Mr Fox agreed Father Harrigan had told him he owned the pornography and had destroyed it.
Later, answering solicitor Elizabeth McLaughlin for Father Harrigan, Mr Fox said it was the nature of police work that people did not always tell the truth.
‘‘As a detective, we don’t always accept people at their word,’’ Mr Fox said.
He agreed with Ms Lonergan that he may not have had a completely open mind about the Lochinvar matter, and may have believed the pornography was Fletcher’s regardless of Father Harrigan’s contentions.
As Ms Lonergan made clear, the detail of Mr Fox’s policing activities was important in this case because he had raised the Lochinvar presbytery pornography as an example of the Catholic Church destroying evidence in complaints that led to the creation of this investigation.
Asked why he had not sought a formal police statement from Father Harrigan about the Lochinvar pornography, Mr Fox said he did not think it was fully relevant to the Fletcher prosecution at the time.
Questioned by Ms McLaughlin, Mr Fox defended his procedures, saying he ‘‘could not foresee this inquiry, of course, at the time’’.
Ms McLaughlin said she wanted a non-publication order on this section of evidence but Ms Lonergan said the issue had already been raised in public evidence previously.
Commissioner Margaret Cunneen said she was inclined to agree.
The inquiry continues on Tuesday afternoon.
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TRANSCRIPTS: Special Commission of Inquiry
THE fifth week of public hearings in the Newcastle Special Commission of Inquiry opened with persistent cross-examining of police whistleblower Peter Fox.
It concluded with counsel for the diocese, Lachlan Gyles, asking for a non-publication order on this morning’s evidence, a call that was rejected by the commission.
Detective Chief Inspector Fox and Mr Gyles sparred over a statement that Father Robert Searle made to police in relation to the trial of paedophile priest Jim Fletcher.
As the commission had previously heard Mr Fox alleged that Father Searle had ‘‘watered down’’ the statement he gave to another officer.
Mr Fox’s evidence was that Father Searle had gone from saying victim AH had ranted about paedophile priests to saying in his statement that AH was upset because ‘‘nobody loves me’’.
Mr Gyles repeatedly put it to Mr Fox that this was not the case and that Mr Fox’s evidence was incorrect.
Mr Fox repeatedly said that his evidence was correct.
At the close of the encounter Mr Gyles asked for the non-publication order which was objected to by Mark Cohen for Mr Fox and by counsel assisting the inquiry Julia Lonergan.
Mr Gyles said he was concerned about Father Searle’s reputation.
Ms Lonergan said Father Searle would be able to give his version of events in his evidence later in the inquiry.
Commissioner Margaret Cunneen said that the inquiry needed to get to the truth of things and refused Mr Gyles’s request.