Victoria police chief Graham Ashton backed priests’ rights on sex abuse confessions

The Australian

July 26, 2018

By John Ferguson

Melbourne – Victoria police chief Graham Ashton backed the right of priests to retain the seal of the confessional over mandatory reporting of child sex offending in explosive answers to the inquiry that sparked the national abuse royal commission.

Mr Ashton submitted that police would support priests being able to keep confessional discussions secret, declaring that the force had not identified the rite of the confessional as a barrier to reporting sex abuse allegations. Mr Ashton outlined Victoria Police’s position to the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into the handling of child abuse by ­religious and other organisations in 2012.

Police said yesterday the issue over the church’s canon law and mandatory reporting was a matter for the Victorian government.

The Victorian government has not yet outlined its final position on matters relating to the seal of the confessional, but has indicated it favours a consistent national response.

The police force said in 2012 that the seal could remain, providing measures were in place to ­encourage the protection of ­children.

Mr Ashton was then a deputy commissioner of police in charge of specialist operations and his position is detailed in a document obtained by The Australian that backed the so-called Irish model on confession and child ­protection.

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