After Pell’s exoneration, he was made a cardinal and his star seemed to be shining. He would end up partaking in 2 conclaves. A decade later he was even appointed to Pope Francis’ council of cardinal advisers and put in charge of economic reforms.
Bernard Barret and David Ridsdale remained opposed to Pell. Another important Pell critic was Helen Last who had been appointed coordinator for Melbourne diocese’s Pastoral Response Office set up by Vicar General in the mid-1990s under Frank Little, but Last’s position became made redundant (in May 1997) when the PRO was replaced by the Melbourne Response. She ended up becoming a fierce critic of Pell In Good Faith and Associates (IGFA) and then In Good Faith Foundation (IGFF). Seeing how she was a part of the abuse ‘response’ system during the latter days of Little’s leadership, which was undeniably worse in dealing with abuse and which Pell rightfully replaced with the Melbourne Response, her attacks on Pell’s response and Pell himself appear both biased and hypocritical. She was part of Little’s team and while she may not have covered up anything herself, response systems under Little served as mere window dressing. Shouldn’t she have been happy that Pell had ended that?
But the attacks from the likes of Barret had lost momentum and subsided after Scott’s accusations were rejected while Pell’s star shone brightly!
Victoria Police turns against and tries to scapegoat the Church: Graham Ashton’s corruption
Meanwhile, he Victoria Police had continued to support the Melbourne response while sometimes supportively suggesting improvements. This positive state of affairs continued all the way through 2010. Things would start to change drastically in 2011 and explode in 2012! An important figure in this was Graham Ashton who was made assistant director Office of Police Integrity in 2004 and then in 2009, he was made director of forensic services for Victoria Police, thereafter as Assistant Commissioner (Crime) and later in 2012 he’d become Deputy Commissioner of the Victoria Police.
Am… am I the only one who finds this double dipping problematic? How can the assistant director of the supposedly independent office meant to investigate corruption in the Victoria Police then be made a deputy commissioner in that very same body?
It seems like it just may have been a problem since the Victoria Police got embroiled in the lawyer X scandal in which barrister Nicola Gobbo secretly served as a police informant, betraying many of her clients.
The High Court of Australia ended up getting involved and said of the Lawyer X scandal generally; ‘it is greatly to be hoped that it will never be repeated’. They harshly attacked the Victoria Police:
‘(Gobbo’s) actions in purporting to act as counsel for the Convicted Persons while covertly informing against them were fundamental and appalling breaches of (her) obligations as counsel to her clients and of (her) duties to the court. Likewise, Victoria Police were guilty of reprehensible conduct in knowingly encouraging (Gobbo) to do as she did and were involved in sanctioning atrocious breaches of the sworn duty of every police officer to discharge all duties imposed on them faithfully and according to law without favour or affection, malice or ill-will.
As a result, the prosecution of each Convicted Person was corrupted in a manner which debased fundamental premises of the criminal justice system.’
After the High Court’s decision Ashton said that “Ethics is a murky, murky thing”. THIS man was assistant director for the Office of Police Integrity! This man also dared to lecture the Catholic Church in Victoria!
Ashton was the one who in 2011 ended up severing the Victoria Police’s cooperation with the Catholic Church in dealing with abuse through the Melbourne response. This decision was not initially caused by any wrongdoing on the Church or any shocking discovering of deficiencies in the response. Nor was it directly caused by victims criticising the response. Rather it had to do with the Victoria Police withdrawing from agreement with independent groups in response to scandals involving the police but unrelated to the Catholic Church. This followed shortly after Deputy police commissioner Sir Ken Jones had left to force prematurely due to yet another unrelated scandal involving the police.
Non-Catholic corruption scandals lead to a new front for Pell scapegoating
John Ferguson (a consistent flipflopper on the witch-hunt against Pell) described the deterioration of the relationship between the Victoria Police in an article for TheAustralian that contained valuable information provided in a rather confusing order.
“Jones was a former senior British policeman who fell out with then Victorian police commissioner Simon Overland, with both leaving their jobs prematurely. Jones left in May 2011 and Overland a month later.
Documents show Jones and others had been working on a new protocol with the church that would have improved liaison between the two groups over clergy abuse and the church believed the police were “very content” with the Melbourne Response.
The dealings between Jones and the church had been cordial.”
Sir Jones had in fact opposed the corrupt presses of Vic Pol, where they released incomplete crime statistics to make the state Labour government look good in preparation for the upcoming elections. Jones was against such politicisation of policing. He faced death threats! Chief Commissioner Overland requested the Integrity Office because he suspected Jones may have leaked evidence of this corruption to the press. Sir Jones was vindicated later.
But shortly after this integer man left the Police the rising star Ashton ended support for the Melbourne response.
“The documents seen by The Australian show the church-police relationship changed sharply on September 29, 2011, when current police chief Graham Ashton — then a deputy commissioner — wrote to the church stating the force could no longer publicly support a new protocol with the organisation.
This was not explicitly because of concerns about the Melbourne Response.
Rather, it was because the force had ruled that the chief commissioner of the day no longer entered into binding agreements with third parties after an intervention by the police files watchdog that related to the multi-billion-dollar Victorian desalination plant.
Police had been criticised for striking a deal to make available secret police files on people protesting against the desalination plant, sparking a review of agreements with companies and bodies outside the force.
Ashton, who was later strongly backed by then police commissioner Ken Lay, sent a short letter to the church… rescinding the connection with the organisation over the compensation scheme and protocols for handling abuse.”
Simply backing out of the Melbourne response was one thing, but TheAustralian noted that Ashton did it in a way rather insulting to the Church.
But Ashton also forcefully told then archbishop Denis Hart the next month: “The reporting and recording of any crime committed by your staff is a matter for you to manage in accordance with the law and natural justice.
“Our expectations are that those matters are reported to police at the first available opportunity.’’
Victoria Parliamentary Inquiry and blatant anti-Catholic lies
Ashton’s anti-Catholic turn seemed an important part of a larger (open?) turn to the Radical Left in the Victoria Police. This would give Pell critics like Barrett and Last an important new allies amongst the corrupt Victoria Police.
There was some mild friction between Glenn Davies, head Victoria Police sex crimes squad, and independent commissioner O’Callaghan because O’Callaghan considered it his duty to inform accused priests of the fact that police had told him that they were pursuing their own (criminal) investigation against the accused priests (full disclosure to both parties involved in his inquiry). O’Callaghan initially resisted calls to improve the (admittedly somewhat outdated) Melbourne response but conversations to that end had continued in good faith till the previously mentioned unrelated Vic Pol scandals and the sacking of Jones. Davies had asked information from O’Callaghan to fully understand his work with the Melbourne Response and work towards further improving cooperation with the Archdiocese in fighting abuse which O’Callaghan provided. The tipoff was described as inadvertent and changes to the Melbourne response were talked about though not yet unveiled in 2010.
In 2011 however, Davies ended up working with Helen Last’s IGFF. He then ended up attacking O’Callaghan and the Melbourne response. For the head of an anti-sex crimes police united to become a leading member of a partisan advocacy group that holds critical views of certain individuals and institutions and makes money of suing them… Seems as problematic as the assistant director of Office of Police Integrity getting a leading function in the police. To be fair, Davies would be fired from the force in 2012, after having already been suspended in 2010 (with pay!) for leaking information to the press himself. Yet, in spite of his disgrace, for which he was convicted in court, he was not only accepted as part of anti-Pell lobby groups but continued to enjoy sympathy with Victoria Police.
In 2012 Ashton and his allies (including Davies) in the police went further and started making blatantly false claims to attack the Melbourne response. In response to recommendations of the Cummins Inquiry, a Victoria parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by religious and other organisations was held. Victoria Police falsely claimed that not a single complaint off child sexual abuse was reported to the police under the Melbourne response. This was a blatantly false claims which simple number were able to refute and independent commissioner Peter O’Callaghan QC, who had reported many abuses cases to the police (as we noted in our previous article) was able to thoroughly refute the blatant lies as described by Ferguson for TheAustralian.
There was a series of examples of abuse being reported to police but it was the practice of the process’s independent commissioner at the time, Peter O’Callaghan QC, to agree to the wishes of the abused person. If they didn’t want to report, then he was unable to report it without their approval.
On May 15, 2012, Hart wrote to [Commissioner] Lay, declaring: “As I have said publicly on a number of occasions, the fact is that many of the sexual abuse victims who approach the independent commissioner do so on the condition of confidentiality, having been urged to take their complaint to the police but having declined to do so.
“It is not my expectation that Victoria Police would want the wishes of victims to be ignored.”
The Australian reported on June 19, 2013, just weeks after Operation Tethering started, how O’Callaghan had accused Ashton of “blatant untruths”, a “travesty” of justice, “utterly false” claims and of “malicious nonsense” in evidence to the state inquiry.
On criticism by police of the alleged restrictions placed on sex abuse victims in relation to future legal action and reporting to police, O’Callaghan asserted: “This is utterly false. It is astounding that a responsible organisation such as Victoria Police could put forward to a most important inquiry such blatant untruths.”
He also rejected police claims that victims were forced into confidentiality agreements if they accepted compensation from the church.
Meanwhile Detective Sergeant Kevin Carson co-authored a report that asserted that 43 suicides in Ballarat were directly linked to abuse by Catholic clergy which was leaked in April 2012. Dr Vivian Waller was quoted as saying that inquiry would uncover an epidemic of abuse. The police set up Operation Plangere in July 2012 to review Carson’s conclusions. Turned out only 25 deaths could even be identified. 18 out of 43 that couldn’t be identified is pretty bad. Only 16 deaths had been registered as a suicide (though there were 3 dubious cases), leaving only 18 out of 43 at most. Only 4 were confirmed victims of abuse by Catholic authorities (3 by clergy). Carson’s work was accused of “shameful distortions.” (This debunking over the inflated numbers wasn’t released for 2 years, only coming to light during the Royal Commission.)
While all these claims were false, they wildly stuck in anti-Catholic circles and have been repeated for many years even after being debunked. They were used to deny the reality of the Melbourne response as a revolutionary system that reported and fought abuse in the Church to a corrupt cover up system.
With Ashton’s mergence as a leading figure and the various scandals in Vic Pol there was a fast two-year transformation, where the Victoria Police spread many falsehoods regarding the Melbourne response which they had previously praised. They misrepresented the Melbourne response, either to shift blame for past police inaction regarding abuse, anti-Catholic bigotry or both.
But the Inquiry found:
The Catholic Church established the Melbourne Response (in 1996) in consultation with Victoria Police and the Victorian Government. Assistant Commissioner Gavan Brown, and the Solicitor-General each approved and signed off on the process.
There was no indication that at anytime before April 2012 Victoria Police told the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne that it had any concerns about the Melbourne Response.
It is clear that Victoria police paid inadequate attention to the fundamental problems of the Melbourne Response arrangements until relatively recently in April 2012 and that, when they did become the subject of public attention, Victoria Police representatives endeavoured quite unfairly to distance the organisation from them.”
While problems were noted, these were not the response covering up abuse, preventing victims from going to the police or failing to do so. Instead, problems were described without very clear answers. It was noted that victims who went to the Melbourne response often did so because they felt obstacles to go to the police. That greater encouragement was needed to get them to do so willingly. But couldn’t that have devolved into pressure? It was mentioned that some victims found the Melbourne response (re)traumatising, yet this raises the question whether pushing such victims who were afraid to report abuse to the police to do just that. Yet, at the same time the inquiry spoke of the importance of such systems providing healing and support. The problem indeed becomes how a Church system could provide both pastoral care for abuse victims who refused to go to the police and serve as an alternative evidence based inquiry system.
Regardless, the Victoria inquiry debunked the Victoria Police’s and specifically Ashton’s blatant lies! Instead of apologising they doubled down and went after Pell himself, looking for people to accuse him of a crime! At the same, Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard decided to call a Royal Commission (nation wide governmental inquiry) into abuse, apparently finding the state parliamentary inquiry insufficient. Graham Ashton, supported Carson’s (false) claims and he would use Carson’s (debunked) report in his evidence to the Royal Commission.
“Show me the man and I’ll show you the crime.” Lavrentiy Beria