Report findings kept under wraps by Ombudsman  

Report findings kept under wraps by Ombudsman  

AN Ombudsman’s report into the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s handling of sex abuse allegations against Father James Fletcher has not been made public seven months after it was completed.
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And the three organisations who have a copy are not about to release it in the near future.

The Ombudsman’s office has rejected repeated requests for the report to be released.

A spokeswoman said the only copies to have been released were passed on to the office of Minister for Education and Training, Dr Andrew Refshauge, and the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations.

Last September, The Herald asked the Ombudsman’s office a series of questions about the release of the report.

NORMAL PROTOCOL: Bishop Michael Malone says the report aims to assist the Maitland-Newcastle Diocese in its response to child protection issues.

When asked what was the protocol in determining whether a report should be released or tabled in parliament, spokeswoman Lisa Du said there were a “range of factors”.

“Such as whether an investigation has brought to light significant systemic issues, or it is otherwise in the public interest to do so,” Ms Du replied in an email.

“We do this only on rare occasions (on average we issue three to four reports a year).”

A spokesman for Dr Refshauge has also declined to release the report because “we think that considering it was done by the Ombudsman it should be released by the Ombudsman”.

The Herald also asked Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle Diocese Michael Malone this week if the church would release the report.

Bishop Malone replied that it was “normal protocol” that the NSW Ombudsman’s Office conduct investigations into the handling of child abuse allegations.

“Given that the report you are referring to belongs to the Ombudsman’s office, it’s the Ombudsman’s responsibility to release the document,” Bishop Malone said.

“The aim of any investigation and report from the Ombudsman is to improve systems and procedures for the handling of child protection matters.

“The report is to assist the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle in its response to child protection issues.”