Belfast Telegraph

No knee-jerk reaction, say police

There will be no knee-jerk decision on whether to launch a police investigation into the latest claims levelled against the Catholic Church, a senior commander in Northern Ireland has insisted.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton said allegations made in a TV documentary on the secret internal Church inquiry in 1975 into paedophile priest Brendan Smyth would be reviewed by specialist detectives first.

Cardinal Sean Brady has faced mounting calls to resign over his role in the historic Church probe, primarily his apparent failure to alert the civil authorities about the abuse claims against Smyth.

Amnesty International has called for police to investigate the handling of the case, while a Stormont committee is now to write to the police asking what it plans to do in response to the BBC programme.

But Ireland's most senior Catholic cleric has claimed he was only a notary in the process and blamed superiors in the Church for failing to stop the evil priest abusing over the next 20 years.

Mr Hamilton, who was attending a meeting of the Policing Board oversight body in Belfast, confirmed that the offence of withholding information from the police was on the statute in Northern Ireland in 1975 but said it had not yet been established whether the BBC documentary provided prima facie evidence the law had been broken.

He said officers would "do the right thing" based on where the evidence led them.

"For the last number of months there has been an investigation ongoing under an operation called Operation Charwell into alleged institutional abuse and this is really the context in which we will examine the material that was made available through the BBC documentary," he said. "Before we launch into an investigation or make knee-jerk responses to that, we will take an objective, evidence-based assessment of the material that was in that programme."

Later, the Garda press office in Dublin declined to comment on whether it was investigating the circumstances around the Church inquiry.

Mr Hamilton stressed that all institutions being investigated as part of Operational Charwell were co-operating fully with the PSNI.

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