The Catholic Church drafted a Memorandum of Understanding to share information with the NSW Police Force in 2004 despite being told a year earlier that the agreement breached child abuse mandatory reporting laws, an inquiry has heard.
The Police Integrity Commission had previously heard the MOU was designed to open up lines of communication between the church’s Professional Standards Office and the Child Protection Enforcement Agency, to facilitate the sharing of information relating to allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
But a 2003 letter from Commander Kim McKay from the Child Protection Squad to Michael McDonald, who was the head of the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, advised that the unsigned MOU breached section 316 of the Crimes Act.
In the letter, Ms McKay said “the draft MOU has not been approved by the NSW Police Service, and the arrangements proposed by the MOU are not currently in place”.
She went on to state that “the arrangements proposed by the draft MOU appear to be in direct conflict with the explicit legislative requirement of section 316 of the Crimes Act”.
Section 316 of the Crimes Act states that a person who knows or believes a serious indictable offence has been committed and fails to pass that information onto police is liable and could be imprisoned for two years.
Commander McKay’s letter was in response to a request from Mr McDonald, seeking confirmation that the unsigned MOU remained in place.
But evidence Mr McDonald gave to the commission on Wednesday appeared to be at odds with his letter from 2003.
Catholic body unaware if MOU is in place
Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission, Kristina Stern, Mr McDonald said he did not know if the MOU was in place or not.
“I wouldn’t be able to tell you wether it was in place or not, other than it existed,” Mr McDonald told the inquiry.
“It was never a headline issue for the Professional Standards Resource Group, but I was aware in the background that some work had been done on an MOU.”