The Catholic Church believed it had an understanding with the NSW police in 2003 that allowed them to conceal evidence against pedophile priests, a freedom of information (FoI) document reveals, reports AAP in The Herald Sun.
The file, accessed through FoI laws by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge and obtained by ABC's Lateline, documents the Catholic Church's attempt to co-opt NSW police to strike into the illegal agreement.
'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,' the unsigned draft memorandum read.
Catholic Commission for Employment Relations Executive Director, Michael McDonald, wrote to the NSW child protection squad on June 18, 2003 seeking confirmation that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) was still in place.
In response, Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad advised no agreement ever existed. 'The arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crime Act,' he wrote in August 20, 2003.
It's unclear how long the church had been acting according the draft MOU.
Michael Salmon, who was the Catholic Church's point of contact for police at the time, provided a statement to Lateline confirming the church had operated under the unsigned agreement. 'The Church assumed it was operational, we were practicing the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions,' he said.
'We had an understanding from police it was approved.'
Church attempted to conceal crimes (The Herald Sun)
Church tried to strike deals with police to withhold abuse evidence (The Australian)
Church,police agreed on abuse reporting (The Newcastle Herald)
Canberra priest to stand trial over alleged sexual offences (The Canberra Times)