‘I Felt Like I Was On Trial’: Peter Fox reflects on being the instigator for the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Assault

Peter Fox at his book launch.

 

IT has been almost a decade since former Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox from the Hunter Valley spoke out against alleged cover ups within the NSW Police and the Catholic Church in an open letter to former premier Barry O’Farrell.

Peter is most commonly noted as the ‘whistleblower’ whose actions led to former Prime Minister, Julia Gillard calling on a Royal Commission investigating child sex abuse, probing organisations from Scouts to schools, state authorities and religious organisations, most significantly the Catholic churches of Australia.

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Recently Mr Fox spoke at a VIEW Club event in Hawks Nest where he bumped into two people whom he had worked with throughout his career; one being the ex-head of analytical laboratories in Lidcombe, and another, a former Magistrate.

After moving to the Hunter Valley in 1983, Peter worked in the Cessnock Police Department where he first investigated child sex abuse cases.

Peter spoke to News Of The Area about his career.

“I think the first major case that occurred in the Hunter Valley was Father Vince Ryan (charged with 53 counts of Child Sex abuse).

“The terrible reality was that the abuse was occurring in the Catholic Church immediately behind the Cessnock Police Station where I was working at the time,” he said.

At that time, many were horrified to hear of the abuse within a Church, however this was just the tip of the iceberg.

Peter then helped to convict Denis McAlinden, which he deems as “by far the worst offender that I’m aware of”; a Parish Priest who abused children across the world; and Father Jim (James) Fletcher, who was Peter’s local priest at the time.

“I remember thinking geez, these fellows are coming up again and again, and it wasn’t just the ones I was dealing with, I was aware that Newcastle was dealing with so many others too and there had to be people in the church that knew about what was going on.

“This couldn’t just be going on with no one aware,” Peter said.

So that’s where he started looking.

With other police officers distraught and told to cease investigating, Peter was determined to get to the bottom of the bigger issue and made contact with two nieces of Denis McAlinden, who both had been sexually abused as children.

“When I spoke to them it really shocked me that not only were they giving me verbal accounts of their abuse, but that they’d been to the hierarchy of the church and expected something to be done and nothing was ever done,” Peter recalled.

The two women then provided Peter with copies of the statements, and Detective Fox began to investigate that particular matter but soon was directed to surrender all the statements and to cease investigating the matter, heightening his concerns.

In short, this led to him speaking out.

Four days after his letter, a Royal Commission was announced separating the Hunter Valley matters from other cases and Peter was labelled a discredited witness.

“Even though technically I wasn’t on trial, I felt like I was,” said Peter.

Eventually, Mr Fox retired from the Police Force.

“It certainly took a very personal toll on myself, my wife and our family with what transpired as all of a sudden I’d gone from a fairly high profile, experienced investigator with the police to someone discredited overnight,” he said.

Peter’s actions consequently ended his career but also brought justice, eventuating in the Royal Commission referring 2575 people to authorities.

“In your quiet moments you sit and reflect and think ‘why did this have to happen to happen to me?’”

“You look back at it and you think, ‘well, was it worth it?’”

“And I don’t even need to answer that – of course it was,” said Peter.

For the families of the victims, it was just pure bad luck.

“They were guarding their families as I guard mine, but their families fell victim to it.

“It just absolutely churns your stomach to think that your child could have just been in the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong school and that’s really all it would have taken,” said Peter.

 

By Tara CAMPBELL

 

One thought on “‘I Felt Like I Was On Trial’: Peter Fox reflects on being the instigator for the Royal Commission on Child Sexual Assault

  1. This man is a person we should all be greatfull for what he did for not just his local community but for Australia.
    Peter Fox Thank You

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