Statement from Bishop Bill Wright: Diocese policies on reporting to Police

Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

 

Since the mid 2000's under Bishop Michael Malone, the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has had a practice of reporting all available information about historic child sexual abuse allegations to NSW Police. Since my installation we have expanded and codified these practices.


The Diocese's current reporting policy states, in part:

 

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will report to NSW Police or other relevant authorities, criminal conduct that:


• involves a child or class of children,
• involves a CatholicCare worker committing an offense against a person with disability who receives a service from CatholicCare, or
• constitutes a serious indictable offence.


A serious indictable offence is an indictable offence that is punishable by imprisonment for a term of five years or more. Section 316, Crimes Act 1900 makes it a criminal offence to conceal a serious indictable offence.


Reporting to the Police will occur irrespective of the wishes of the complainant or alleged victim. The Diocese will provide all available information in relation to the alleged crime, including the perpetrators and victims' demographic information.


Between 1 January 2014 and 15 April 2016 Zimmerman Services and the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle have made 293 reports to the various commands or services of NSW Police. Of these reports, some are related to people who are or have worked for the diocese itself, but most relate to other situations that have come to our attention through our connections with local communities. These reports included matters such as 'sexting', grooming of children, sexual assaults, physical assaults, recruiting children to distribute drugs, the whereabouts of a 'drug house' and instances of domestic violence.


Through Zimmerman Services, the Diocese has worked in a systematic and committed way to report alleged criminality and actively support Police in their investigations of alleged child sexual assaults.


While giving evidence to the Cunneen Special Commission of Inquiry on 28 June 2013 Detective Sergeant Fabre, head of Strike force Georgiana said:


Yes. Obviously, investigating these matters is very difficult, when we're approaching the church and we went to Zimmerman Services and they readily came to us. I'm aware through Zimmerman Services that Bishop Malone told them they were to exchange all information with us, and they did so.

 

Bishop Malone also gave us permission, written permission, to search any church or records or anything that we needed. As far as Zimmerman Services are concerned, we've worked very closely with them over the entire five years and they have brought to us numerous complainants and when we get complainants, we contact Maureen O'Hearn from Zimmerman Services, who works tirelessly in relation to counselling and support of our victims in these matters.

 

This was further echoed today at the Royal Commission's round table session with Peter Fox's impromptu endorsement of our Zimmerman Services unit – in particular our Healing and Support team's Maureen O'Hearn.

 

The Diocese has, does and will continue to provide support to NSW Police to address the terrible legacy of past criminality as well as promoting the current and future protection of all children in our parishes, schools and community services. I place a great emphasis on meeting all child protection reporting obligations, whether to the Department of Family and Community Services, the NSW Ombudsman or the Office of the Children's Guardian, as well as to NSW Police.