It used to be that we said ‘What happens in the US this week, will follow in the UK next week’ – but recently we have been following in the footsteps, closely in the footsteps, of Australia. The Land of Ozzie Man.
It is also Slater and Gordon land; home of the rapacious law firm that apparently seeks to corner the market in personal injury civil claims for historic sex abuse. Is there a connection between that fact and what follows? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Australia has been thrashing around in the confines of a ‘Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’; one of those overarching inquiries into everything, everywhere, at any time, that we are trying to establish in the UK – and there have been some fascinating spin offs.
One of the most vocal figures calling forÂ such an inquiry is an ex-policeman who lays claim to being a ‘child protection expert’.
He has a fanaticalÂ following on Twitter and in the blogosphere, where he is wont to sound forth late into the night on the inefficiency, nay possible corruption, of the various police forces that should be looking into these matters. Â He is frequently to be found on the breakfast TV sofas, explaining how he had to quit the force in order to properly investigate such abuse – he was prevented from doing so by powerful shadowy figures.
He has been accused of leaking names and details of alleged abuse to popular newspapers, something he strenuously denies – but he is always ready with an alarming quote for anybody who wishes to write about the innuendo he liberally distributes. Â He’s made TV programmes and interviewed ‘victims’ and demands action be taken.Â He has become the darling of left wing politicians who are only too happy to use the paedo-hysteria he has whipped up to score political points.
But here’s the thing – eventually the Royal Commission WAS set up – and it did inquire into everything, everywhere, at anytime – and somehow or other, a spin-off inquiry came about. Into our ex-policeman.
Whoops! Did you think you knew who I was talking about? Nope, not him, this ex-policeman is called Peter Fox. The spin off inquiry was called Strike Force Lantle – and the officer in charge, Detective Sergeant Jeffrey Little, has just been given an award for the exhaustive inquiries he made into the claims of ex-policeman Peter Fox – inquiries made in the face of an onslaught of vitriolic social media campaigning by ‘supporters’ of Peter Fox.
A familiar story indeed – and it is instructive just how closely our home grown ‘paedo-heroes’ have followed in the footsteps of the Ozzie trailblazers.
Peter Fox went ontoÂ ABC’s Lateline programme with sensational claims that there was a ‘cover-up’ of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in New South Wales by a ‘Catholic mafia’ in the Australian Police force. Those claims fed into a growing ‘underground’ movement on social media of people who believe that we are surrounded by conspiracies – rather than ineptitude and often sheer bad luck.
He fed a local journalist with ever more hysterical claims – including details of ‘victims’ statements and contact details, which appeared in the Australian press. He publicly claimed that he was being prevented from investigating, that his records had been seized by NSW police during an unauthorised raid on his house –Â and that he was the best person to get to the bottom of the matter…still sounding familiar?
âFox told Lateline he was forced to stand down from the police investigation into the alleged cover-up of serial child abuse committed by Catholic priest Denis McAlinden.â
âGiving evidence to the state inquiry, he goes further, saying a âCatholic mafiaâ exists within the police and the McAlinden investigation, codenamed Strike Force Lantle, was âa sham â¦ set up to failâ.â
Undoubtedly, Peter Fox’s heart was once in the right place – he is proud of the fact that his original programme and allegations was the catalyst:
“They areÂ the two things that triggeredÂ everything and I don’t thinkÂ anywhere through the Special Commission anything that I said in those documents has beenÂ cast into any sort of doubt,” he told Lateline.
However, the Strike Force Lantle has come to some educative conclusions. Careful what you wish for when you ask for an Inquiry into ‘everything’.
No evidence to support claimsÂ by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox that a ââCatholic mafiaââ existed within local police ranks, or any evidence which supported his claims that he had been wrongly removed from investigating claims of abuse cover-ups within the Catholic church.
Ms Cunneen found Detective Fox to be an unreliable witness who had become ââobsessedââ with his own probe of the diocese, and had at times been ââdeliberately untruthfulââ and prone to exaggeration.
No evidence that the strike force set up to investigate claims that senior Catholic clergy had covered up cases of sexual abuse was the ââshamââ Â that Detective Fox said it was, nor was it designed to fail.
The commission found that Detective Â Fox had wrongly shared some information with Ms McCarthy, but ââMcCarthy provided important assistance to police in respect of the investigation that became Strike Force Lantleââ.
ââFormer police officer turned MP Troy Grant was an impressive and credible witness. The commission accepts his evidence that he did not encounter interference by policeâ¦and that he did not use the term âcatholic mafiaâ when speaking to Fox. The commission rejects Foxâs evidence to the contrary.ââ Further, the commission found that Fox, in a number of conversations with victim AJ, ââdid use the term âCatholic police mafiaâ.ââ
Now some of the victims have come forward to complain that they were ‘exploited‘ by Peter Fox to further his own agenda.
In a series of emails with the Fairfax Media reporter Joanne McCarthy, the victim wrote: “I am shattered that Peter handed me over on a platter to you for his cause with no regard or respect for me.
“I feel at the moment that you have forgotten the victim as Peter Fox did … on Lateline. I am not something to be brought out when it suits someone’s point.”
In her own evidence to the state inquiry, the woman said much of PeterÂ Fox’s account was inaccurate, including his claim that she “came forward” to him saying “the only police officer I will speak to is Peter Fox”.
“Now, on that basis, of course I’m not going to turn her away,” Mr Fox had told ABC.
Giving evidence under oath, the victim said this was incorrect and the policeman first contacted her after being given her name by McCarthy.
“As a sexual abuse victim, you usually find that the emotions for a victim is that they don’t have control over their lives,” she told the inquiry. “In this case, from the beginning, they were not honest with me.”
“I don’t trust him, no, not any more,” she told the inquiry.
During June and July 2010, the inquiry has heard, Mr Fox spent several meetings taking a witness statement from the victim. He told her he was “undertaking a behind-the-scenes investigation on McAlinden“, she told the inquiry, and asked her not to mention it “to any one in the church or the police”.
During the Lateline broadcast, Mr Fox claimed to have been “ordered to stand down” from the police investigation, although the state inquiry has since heard he was, in fact, never part of this police strike force.
In her affidavit to the state inquiry, McCarthy said the victim had given verbal consent for her to have the witness statement but she received a copy from Mr Fox himself. Â The victim told the inquiry she never gave this consent.
The victim subsequently wrote to McCarthy saying she had been deeply upset as “this was private and Peter has no care, respect, regard nor consideration towards me when he handed over my history to you”.
“I have been played as the pawn in this whole deception and exercise by you both,” her emails state.
The journalist concerned, Joanne McCarthy, has been exonerated by the commission, indeed praised for the help and support she gave to the police whilst she was ‘caught in the middle’, as it were.
A separate statutory declaration, from former Catholic sister Janice Wilson, describes media reports of “Peter Fox … saying that a (sister) of St Joseph who was assisting police, was ostracised and later dismissed by the order”. This was not correct, Ms Wilson said, as her request to leave the order was made before her involvement with police. “I was not dismissed. I freely chose to leave,” her statement reads.
It is a can of worms – not helped by hysterical ‘paedo-hunters’, whether or not they have ever been policemen, making unreliable statements on TV, carrying out their own unauthorised investigations – and using ‘victims’ for their own agenda, leaking confidential police intelligenceÂ to the media.
Peter Fox is no longer in Australia…he is continuingÂ his obsessive interest in victims of paedophilia elsewhere…I just hope he hasn’t followed the rest of the Ozzie paedo-industry to Britain. We have our own home-grown versions to contend with already.