Victoria Police are investigating senior Catholic Church figures, with the idea of charging them with child neglect or endangerment.
The Australian can reveal that Task Force Sano detectives have been examining charging church figures with failing to protect children when they were facing potential danger.
Former Victorian crown prosecutor and chief magistrate Nick Papas QC said he would prosecute a case against church officials for endangering a child provided the legal threshold was met.
Several senior clergy in Victoria knew that pedophile priests were operating, but failed to report the crimes to police, the sex abuse royal commission has been told, with many victims, perpetrators and church officials now dead.
Details of the investigation emerged as George Pell announced he had written to the Victoria’s Acting Police Minister formally requesting an inquiry into the “maliciously timed” leaking of details of a police investigation into allegations against him.
Mr Papas, one of Australia’s most experienced prosecutors, said people needed to face the courts if police uncovered a proper basis for taking action. “As a private barrister who both defends and prosecutes, my personal opinion is if the evidence is there and there’s no other factors that prevent the matter being prosecuted properly and fairly, then you should prosecute them,” he said.
Neil Wileman, 55, was abused by former Christian Brother Ted Dowlan at St Patrick’s College in Ballarat more than 40 years ago.
He told the royal commission he reported the physical abuse to the college in 1973 but was punished for complaining and the abuse continued, both physical and sexual. “They had a duty of care for those underage children,’’ he said. “They did nothing and they allowed them to be raped.”
The child sex abuse royal commission has heard evidence that officials in the Ballarat diocese knew of pedophile priests but failed to report the offenders to the police. At the time, failing to report knowledge of child sexual crimes was not an offence, however misprision of a felony — or concealment of a felony by someone other than a participant — was a common law offence until 1981 and conduct endangering people became an offence in 1985.
Detectives have been reviewing evidence of when victims of abuse made complaints to church officials.
The royal commission has received evidence former bishop of Ballarat Ronald Mulkearns moved one of Australia’s worst pedophile priests, Gerald Ridsdale, between parishes when complaints were made. Ridsdale, who had possibly hundreds of victims, was moved to the western Victorian parish of Horsham to serve as assistant priest in 1986.
The royal commission also heard evidence Ridsdale committed further offences in Horsham.
Cardinal George Pell served as auxiliary bishop in the Melbourne archdiocese from 1987 until 1996, when he was appointed archbishop. Pedophile priest Peter Searson served in the archdiocese and many complaints were made about his conduct, which included holding a knife to a schoolgirl’s chest. Searson is dead.
Archbishop Denis Hart told the royal commission there was a failure in the handling of complaints and he would have expected Cardinal Pell to have an “adequate degree of knowledge” about the situation. “Whether he knew all these awful things, which make me feel ashamed, I’m not sure,” he said.
Mr Papas said there was an imperative to ensure the truth was told. “Sexual abuse in the context of breach of trust, especially in the environment such as priest and parishioner and child, can’t simply be swept under the carpet,” he said.“If there’s a proper basis to bring criminal proceedings, no matter when they occurred, they need to be brought. Ultimately, the prosecution of all serious sexual offences is in the interest of the community, but always subject to competing factors.”
He said the factors included the length of time since the matters occurred, ability to obtain evidence and fairness to all parties.
Cardinal Pell yesterday announced he had written to the Victorian Acting Police Minister formally requesting an inquiry into the “maliciously timed” leaking of details of a police investigation into allegations against him.
Victoria Police confirmed that Cardinal Pell’s complaint had been referred to the state’s peak anti-corruption body for investigation. “Victoria Police takes this allegation seriously and accordingly we have referred the matter to IBAC,’’ a spokeswoman said.
full article: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/in-depth/royal-commission/top-catholic-church-clergy-could-face-child-neglect-charges/news-story/0c8a8072029d6efd7f4d51998893a62b?nk=f31fa3b9d3d697628b8404c5f4c68965-1456169277