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SERIOUS doubts have been cast over allegations that former Maitland-Newcastle bishop Michael Malone allegedly tipped off a priest that he was being investigated over claims of child sex abuse and told him who the complainant was.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox made the claim before the Special Commission of Inquiry in Newcastle on Tuesday morning, but his recollection of the event has been heavily questioned.
Under examination by counsel assisting the inquiry, Julia Lonergan SC, Fox was asked about a complaint he received in 2002 from a victim, known only as AH.
Fox told the inquiry that AH was “very distraught” when she called him. She allegedly told Fox that Bishop Malone had spoken to Father James Fletcher, disclosed AH’s real name to him and told him that she had made a complaint to police about his sexual abuse of her.
Fox later told the inquiry that he held a meeting with Bishop Malone and asked him about what he had told Fr Fletcher. Fox conceded that neither he or the other police officer who attended the meeting took any notes at their meeting with Malone.
In his evidence, Mr Fox said he contemplated laying charges against Bishop Malone, given that “potential evidence was destroyed”.
But serious doubts have been cast over Mr Fox’s recollection of the meeting and when he made reports about it.
One report given to the commission by Fox was not dated, and his evidence provided on Tuesday was at odds with another statement and evidence he gave the commission in a private hearing in May this year.
Commissioner Margaret Cunneen took the unusual step of lifting a suppression order on extracts of a transcript taken during the private hearings last month which showsthat Fox’s evidence was contradictory.
Ms Lonergan suggested to Fox that there “were elements of reconstruction” in Mr Fox’s new version of events, raising “serious questions about its reliability”.
She alleged that Mr Fox was changing his evidence to “make people think it’s more reliable than it actually is”.
Mr Fox rejected the suggestion.
Ms Lonergan asked Fox if he deliberately set out to mislead the commission.
Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox leaves Newcastle Supreme Court at lunch on Tuesday. Picture: Darren Pateman
Mr Fox also rejected that suggestion.
The inquiry continues.