There are those who support and advocate for victims of child sexual abuse. There are also those who get them justice. Most of the Australian general public are familiar with the part played by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox (see previous postings), revealed during the New South Wales State Government enquiry which finished recently.
Detective Senior Sergeant, Chris O’Connor, recently retired after having been Victoria State Police’s child sex expert for decades. He has given his views on the report of the Victorian State Parliamentary enquiry into clerical child sexual abuse in that state, which was released this week (see previous postings).
“From where I sit, and from the many, many people who are involved in the child protection industry who I have spoken to over the past 25 years, we are as one voice in relation to this, and that is there should have been an inquiry years ago. Governments have been told and told and told about paedophile problems in institutions. I defy anybody who has had anything to do with institutions and child protection to say they never realized it is as bad as it is,” he says.
Mr. O’Connor is particularly critical of the Catholic Church. “The Catholic Church is very much in the gun at the moment and so it should be because, historically, it has been the most responsible organisation for the care and protection of children, and it has failed to do so. There is ample evidence the Catholic Church has protected paedophile priests.”
“Some institutions relied on children often not being believed to quietly move paedophiles to different locations so as to keep the problem hidden and in-house. I’ve got no doubt various institutions which were supposed to care for children knew child sexual abuse was happening in their organisation and didn’t report it.”
“The Catholic Church is a classic example. It had institutions in the US and elsewhere in the world where priests, if there were allegations of inappropriate behaviour, were sent. They were sort of like dry out centres where you would send alcoholics. The priests were treated by psychologists and effectively given a certificate saying they were fixed and they could go back.”
“But there is no cure. You never are not a paedophile once you have become one. So the priests would come back to Australia and offend again. The police were never involved. The church didn’t consider it was a police issue, they determined it was a welfare issue it could handle quietly.”
He has been warning for years about the disgraceful behaviour of the Catholic Church and other institutions with responsibility for caring for children. He said that evidence suggested some priests chose to be priests because of the hold it would give them over children they could abuse, just as other paedophiles were attracted to jobs which gave them easy access to children. He said that the current Royal Commission should have been ordered many years ago, as there was ample evidence.
Of all the paedophiles Mr. O’Connor has caught and locked up during his 36 years with Victoria Police, he describes Catholic priest Michael Glennon as the worst. He committed many of his crimes while on bail awaiting trial for other sex offences, and used his knowledge of Aboriginal traditions to scare his victims into silence. Glennon was also convicted of abusing 15 children between 1974 and 1991, mostly at youth camps held at Karaglen, a rural property he helped to establish and run.
“There were a litany of victims and offences by Glennon that he never, to this day, acknowledged and yet he was a man of the cloth. It’s incongruous. He was someone children should have been able to trust implicitly, and he betrayed that trust in the most awful way.” Sen-Sgt O’Connor told the Herald Sun newspaper.
The experiences and views of Detective Senior Constable, Colin Ryan, were similar. He was based in the town of Warrnambool and was involved in investigating three Catholic clergy. His investigations led to the arrest and conviction of former priest, Paul David Ryan [obviously no relation!], who was sentenced to 18 months’ jail in 2006, after pleading guilty to assaulting an altar boy. He is also understood to have offended in the United States. “The damage that is done by these sexual predators cannot be overstated,” Detective Senior Constable Ryan said, when indicating that he welcomed the report which he felt would provide some solace to victims and their families.
Helen Watson, who told the Victorian inquiry about her son taking his life after allegedly being abused at a Catholic presbytery in Ararat, said the report was a challenge to the Victorian State Government to enact the recommendations of the report, soon. “If it’s not acted on, then all our efforts have been wasted,” said Mrs. Watson.
She plans to approach a proposed new taskforce and seek an investigation into Father Ryan’s alleged abuse of her late son.
“Peter’s life changed after he went to a sleepover at the Ararat presbytery at the age of 15.
He went from being an intelligent, vibrant person to someone struggling to survive, and on the path to self-destruction. He suicided at the age of 24, and was buried in Melbourne as an unknown person.”
It was only by chance about six years later that his fingerprints were identified.
“We had him exhumed, and buried on the family farm,” Mrs. Watson told the Warrnambool Standard.