Victoria Police slam Catholic Church over child sex abuse
19th October 2012
Updated 19th October 2012
VICTORIA'S deputy police commissioner has accused the Catholic Church of impeding criminal investigation of child sex offences through its lack of cooperation with police.
In the first day of a parliamentary inquiry into how religious organisations have handled child sexual abuse allegations, Victoria Police deputy commission Graham Ashton resumed his scathing assessment of the church's internal processes which he said were hampering prosecutions.
"Victoria Police has concerns that existing protocols within religious organisations are focused on church issues such as legal liability and public relations rather than the long term interests of victims," he told the inquiry before a packed public gallery this morning.
Mr Ashton said the church had repeatedly dismissed allegations of abuse by already dead offenders, which was "an absolute nonsense" and stopped police from knowing the full picture.
The inquiry opened this morning with committee chairwoman Georgie Crozier defending the committee's powers against calls for a royal commission.
She said the parliamentary inquiry held many of the same powers, including the ability to subpoena witnesses and documents, and would seek to identify systemic solutions to improve religious groups responses to abuse.
Mr Ashton said the existing processes within the Catholic church for dealing with abuse lacked transparency, independence and oversight.
He revealed police had for the first time compiled statistics on child sex abuse involving religious organisations, using data from 1956 to June this year.
In that period there were 2110 offences recorded by members of religious organisations against 519 individual victims, 370 of whom were in the Catholic church system.
Nearly 90 per cent of the victims were 11 or 12 year old boys at the time of the abuse.
The inquiry is due to report by April 30, but there are serious doubts the deadline can be met without jettisoning a large amount of evidence and an extension may be likely.
Further evidence will be heard this afternoon from child protection experts, before the hearings resume next week.
The government has undertaken to provide a response to the matter within six months of receiving the final report.