Ex police investigators could hinder healing process
12th October 2012
31st October 2012
Peter (who did not want to use his last name) was 12 when he was raped and beaten while in the care of a couple on holiday away from his legal guardian, St Vincent de Paul's boys orphanage in South Melbourne, in 1967. He ran away from the house with his brother and walked all night to the nearest police station, where officers put them on a train back to the orphanage. With his arms and legs covered in bruises and cuts, he told the Christian Brothers he had been physically attacked.
In 2007, Peter, who had by then been convicted of armed robbery, took part in Towards Healing - the Church's national internal inquiry - where he was interviewed by two ex-police officers.
''They treated me with utter contempt … when they did the so-called inquiry, it got back to me that they had found no evidence.''
''A lot of these boys [victims of abuse] end up in prison and their credibility is worth nothing, and that is also an impediment to them coming forward.''
Peter said the boys' home could not find any files on the incident.
The concerns come after Victoria Police accused the church of deliberately impeding its investigations into child abuse in its submission to a state inquiry. In the submission, Chief Commissioner Ken Lay was particularly critical of Towards Healing and the Melbourne archdiocese's equivalent, Melbourne Response.
Mr Lay said the latter's independent commissioner and assessors were not trained or funded to deal with the allegations and did not have the benefit of the police's training for interviewing victims of sexual assault.
Lawyer and Monash University PhD student Judy Courtin said the same criticism could be levelled at Towards Healing, which employs ex-police to assess allegations of abuse.
Ms Courtin said assessors could not be objective or independent because they were paid by the church. ''My interpretation is that because they're ex-policemen, they're supposed to be using a civil burden of proof on the balance of probabilities but … they've always used the criminal burden of proof - beyond a reasonable doubt. The question I ask is: 'Are they therefore applying a much higher burden of proof than they should be?'''
Church spokesman James O'Farrell confirmed that ''some'' Towards Healing assessors were retired police officers, but said Melbourne Response investigations were undertaken by independent commissioners Peter O'Callaghan, QC, and Jeff Gleeson, SC. ''We are not aware of the involvement of the police or retired police hindering either … [investigation's] processes,'' he said.