Church in NSW thought it had secrecy deal with police

The Catholic Church in New South Wales believed it had a secrecy deal with police that allowed it to withhold information about paedophile priests, newly released documents show.

Church leaders thought they had struck a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with police about what information would be handed over.

The unsigned draft memorandum said: “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.”

But police deny there was any arrangement, saying such a deal would be been in breach of the Crimes Act.

Documents released under Freedom of Information laws show that the executive director of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, Michael McDonald, wrote to the NSW child protection squad in 2003 seeking confirmation that the memorandum of understanding 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 back.

But Michael Salmon, who was the Catholic Church’s point of contact for police at the time, confirming that the Church had operated under the unsigned agreement.

“The church assumed it was operational, we were practising the provisions of the MOU and dealing with the police under those provisions,” he said.

“We had an understanding from police it was approved.”

Mr Salmon, director of the Professional Standards Resource Group of the Catholic Church in NSW, said: “We had a line of communications with the police and all indications from the police were that the MOU was approved from their end.”

However, a spokesperson for the NSW Police said: “The Church continued to co-operate with NSW Police but it did so without any protections assumed in an MOU, as such protections would not have been valid given the requirements of Section 316 of the Crimes Act.”


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