On Wednesday, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana held that the police had wrongly concluded in 1990 that a Melbourne priest had made no sexual offence against a 10-year-old girl inside a confessional. The investigation into Doveton parish priest Peter Searson was declared “nil offences disclosed” after he was accused of indecently assaulting a minor.

“I’m of the view that there certainly was an indecent assault that was committed and it should have proceeded further,” Fontana told the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Julie Stewart told the inquiry that she was indecently assaulted by the priest in 1985. According to the police report in 1990, “All Searson has done is sit the child on his knee and get the child to kiss him on the cheek. Stewart stated that when she sat on his knee he dragged her up and on to his lap where she felt his erect penis rubbing on her back.”

Fontana told the commission on Wednesday that provided the evidence that was already available at that point of time, it was but quite feasible for police to at least conclude that there was some level of indecency committed.

"Reading the statement, I thought quite clearly there was an indecency around it," Fontana said. "To suggest that there was none and even, I think somewhere in the documentation or report that suggests it wasn't a sex offence, I disagree with. I think the whole circumstance was surrounded with indecency."

Commission chair Justice Peter McClennan said that the case highlighted the need for a change in the attitude of those at the helm of the justice system towards child abuse cases where there is no witnesses, the ABC reported.

Apart from allegations of sexual abuse, the commission heard that the priest also faced accusations of pointing a gun at students, holding a knife at a child’s chest and showing a dead body in a coffin to students.

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