A POLICE taskforce will investigate allegations of sexual abuse of young boys by the former priest known as ‘Father F’.
The man, who lives in Armidale, was the subject of a Four Corners investigation earlier this month that claimed he abused altar boys in the Armidale and Parramatta dioceses during the 1980s.
A police spokewoman confirmed on Wednesday that Strike Force Glenroe had been established to investigate the claims.
“The NSW Police Force can confirm Strike Force Glenroe has been formed to review all relevant material,” she said.
“However, police are unable to comment further on this matter at this time.”
The announcement comes after Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay sent a letter to Premier Barry O’Farrell urging him to intervene.
Mr O’Farrell told reporters on Wednesday he had forwarded Mr Torbay’s letter to acting Police Commissioner Catherine Burns.
“Yesterday I was in a position to advise Mr Torbay that police have established a taskforce that is investigating,” he said.
Mr Torbay welcomed the response from Mr O’Farrell and the police.
“I am confident from my correspondence with the acting Commissioner and Premier that they are taking this matter very seriously, which I welcome,” he said.
Police previously questioned Father F about sexual abuse allegations in 2003, but decided not to proceed with charges at that time.
According to court transcripts, after alleged abuse victim Daniel Powell attempted to blackmail Father F, the priest sought help from a senior sergeant based in Sydney's west whom he described as a "good mate".
Police established an operation to arrest and charge Mr Powell with demanding money by menaces, but he was found not guilty after Father F admitted under cross examination that senior church officials had been told in 1992 that he had sexually abused children.
It was announced earlier this week that former Federal Court judge Antony Whitlam had been appointed by Bishop of Armidale Michael Kennedy and Bishop of Parramatta Anthony Fisher to lead an independent inquiry into the church’s handling of allegations against Father F.
An Armidale teacher who contributed to the Four Corners program described the announcement of the police investigation as ‘encouraging’.
“The police task force demonstrates the gravity of the case and serious commitment to the issue,” said the woman, who did not wish to be named.
She commended Mr O’Farrell and Mr Torbay on their approach to the issue.
“It is significant that two of the state’s most powerful politicians - both of whom are Catholic - are demanding full disclosure and an investigation,” she said. “This indicates that Catholics who are committed to their faith are determined to punish the criminal element which has tainted their religion for far too long.”
The woman also welcomed the appointment of Mr Whitlam to lead the inquiry.
“The appointment of Antony Whitlam QC to conduct the inquiry seems an intelligent decision by Bishop Kennedy,” she said. “He possesses excellent credentials and impartiality should be assured.”
Police have urged any victims of sexual assault to report the crime to police.
“We would certainly like to take seriously any allegation provided to us and strongly urge any person who has been a victim of sexual assault to report it by attending their nearest police station,” she said. “Every report is fully investigated and the NSW Police Force has firm policies and systems in place to manage victims of sexual assault who do make a report.”