Australia to hold sex abuse inquiry
Australia's prime minister has ordered an inquiry into claims of child sex abuse in state and religious institutions and community groups.
It follows a string of sexual abuse accusations against priests and a police investigator's claims of a Catholic Church cover-up.
Prime minister Julia Gillard has faced pressure to launch an investigation after a senior police official last week said the Catholic Church had tried to cover up sexual abuse of children in the Hunter Valley region north of Sydney.
The inquiry will target religious and state institutions, schools and community groups such as sporting clubs. It will also look into police responses to abuse allegations.
Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, Australia's highest-ranking Catholic official, said the church will cooperate with the inquiry.
"Any instance of child abuse is a vile and evil thing. Australians know that," Ms Gillard said. "Australians know, from the revelations that they've read in recent weeks, that too many children have suffered child abuse but have also seen other adults let them down. They've not only had their trust betrayed by the abuser, but other adults who could have acted to assist them have failed to do so."
The investigation will target religious and state institutions, schools and community groups such as sporting clubs. It will also look into police responses to abuse allegations and is expected to take several years to complete.
Last week, New South Wales ordered a state inquiry after veteran detective Peter Fox wrote an open letter to the premier accusing the Catholic Church of thwarting his attempts to investigate child sex abuse allegations in the Hunter Valley.
Detective Chief Inspector Fox, who spent years investigating abuse allegations in the Hunter region, said the church destroyed evidence, silenced victims and shuffled around accused priests in a bid to cover up abuse. There have been hundreds of allegations of abuse by priests in the region since the mid-1990s.
The state of Victoria is separately investigating how churches and other religious institutions responded to sexual abuse allegations against clergy.