Inspector Beth Cullen Failed to Investigate Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Police Integrity Commission Finds

ABC News
June 18, 2015

PHOTO: The Police Integrity Commission concluded that Inspector Beth Cullen had a conflict of interest by sitting on an internal church advisory panel. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

A senior NSW police officer engaged in misconduct by failing to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse raised during regular meetings with the Catholic Church, the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) has found.

In a report tabled in Parliament late yesterday, the PIC concluded that Inspector Beth Cullen had a conflict of interest by sitting on an internal church advisory panel, known as the Professional Standards Resource Group (PSRG).

This was because she had failed to act on multiple allegations of child sexual abuse raised in the group meetings in breach of her duty as a police officer.

The Commission noted that while Inspector Cullen had acted in good faith, her misconduct was "not trivial".

The expert panel was set up by Catholic bishops to advise the church on specific cases of child sexual abuse involving clergy and others.

The panel met regularly between 1999 and 2005.

Inspector Cullen's role was to advise on whether church practices breached the law and whether priests should be removed from their positions.

The PIC investigation, known as Operation Protea, was established after the ABC's Lateline program reported in 2013 that the church tried to strike an agreement with police to allow it to withhold information about paedophile priests.

This was done through a process of "blind reporting" where the names of alleged victims of child abuse and other details were deleted from reports to police.

Lateline also reported Inspector Beth Cullen had "shredded" all documents she received from the group, thereby destroying evidence of sexual abuse by priests and other church workers.

But the PIC found there was no proof Inspector Cullen destroyed any evidence, including "de-identified" documents detailing alleged child sexual abuse.

The Commission found she left her copies of documents at the advisory panel meeting venue, which were then collected by the convenor of group or a member of his staff.

The PIC concluded it was police misconduct not to retain the documents because they might have assisted in a police investigation.

PIC notes Inspector Cullen's outstanding service record

The PIC noted that Inspector Cullen had an outstanding service record and that she had not intended to engage in misconduct.

"There was no conscious dereliction of duty by her. On the contrary, Cullen was well-intentioned," the report said.

The PIC cleared three other officers, who worked with Inspector Cullen, of any misconduct.

It also recommended the NSW Police Force should reconsider the practice of blind reporting.

Inspector Cullen was not available for comment, but a police spokesman said she had been rightly acknowledged for her career commitment to child protection.

"It is pleasing the dedication and integrity of the involved officers has been recognised," he said.

"The NSW Police Force has charged and prosecuted a significant number of individuals who have offended against children in institutional settings."

NSW Greens MLC and justice spokesman David Shoebridge said he was disappointed by the PIC's recommendation on blind reporting.

"They couldn't have come out with a weaker response," Mr Shoebridge said.

"The practice of blind reporting is not only illegal but it is unethical because it puts the interests of institutions ahead of the interests of children."

He called on the Police Minister and Police Commissioner to state they would no longer accept any institution censoring its reports of child abuse.








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