Catholic Church tried to strike deal with police over child sexual abuse investigations
Lateline Exclusive by Steve Cannane and Sashka Koloff 10/3/13
The Catholic Church tried to strike an agreement with New South Wales Police that would have helped shut down investigations into paedophile priests and placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.
Police records, accessed under freedom of information laws by Greens MP David Shoebridge, show two attempts were made to finalise memorandums of understanding (MOUs) between police and the church over how to deal with complaints of sexual and physical abuse by Catholic Church personnel.
The first agreement, which was unsigned, includes a clause that reads: "Church authorities shall make available the report of an assessment and any other matter relevant to the accused's account of events only if required to do so by court order."
Barrister Geoffrey Watson SC says the agreement would have placed police in breach of the Crimes Act.
"If you become aware of a serious criminal offence, you've got to tell the police," he told the ABC's Lateline program.
"When I looked at the MOUs they were really in effect trying to get the police to condone the failure to comply with that law, or even perhaps worse, get the police to participate in that."
NSW Police say neither memorandum of understanding was ever signed, or in force.
But a senior official with the Catholic Church has told Lateline an agreement was operational and the church dealt with police under the provisions of the first draft agreement....
We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.
Michael Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW