A Salvation Army chief told a whistleblower who reported a child sex offender to authorities there were hundreds of matters that should have been reported if her approach was correct, an inquiry has heard.
In damning evidence to the royal commission, Captain Michelle White has told how, after months of delay by the army, she told the Ombudsman in 2013 that Colin Haggar, a confessed child abuser, was running a shelter for women and children.
Ms White, who heads army foster care service Young Hope, said she was approached by a couple, both army officers, who expressed concern about the continued role of Lieutenant Colonel Haggar.
The commission has heard Mr Haggar confessed to sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in 1989. He was dismissed by the army but re-admitted in 1993 and promoted.
Ms White said she told the couple there was a mandatory obligation to report to the Ombudsman and the then Office of Children’s Guardian.
The couple said they had told Commissioner James Condon, who headed the army’s eastern territory, of their concerns about Mr Haggar, but nothing had been done.
Mr Haggar’s wife, Kerry Haggar, was a senior officer on the Salvation Army executive and the commissioner had officiated at the Haggars’ wedding, Ms White said.
Ms White said she felt conflicted because she was friendly with Kerry Haggar.
In a series of conversations and email communications with Mr Condon between July and August 2013, Ms White said she expressed her concern, saying: “I have a legal, ethical and moral obligation to report to … the Ombudsman”.
She said when she met with Mr Condon, he said he did not realise they had the types of reporting obligations she was outlining.
“Michelle, if what you are telling me is correct, there are hundreds of matters that should have been reported over the years, that haven’t been reported,” she quotes his as saying.
He also told her “that couldn’t be possible”.
In July, the commissioner said he would speak to the army’s child protection co-ordinator about making contact with the Ombudsman’s office.
However, by August 23 no action had been taken and Colin Haggar still held the position.
When she checked, she was told that the co-ordinator had just been asked to check the reporting obligations.
She then emailed the commissioner, who responded with one line saying the matter had been dealt with.
Ms White reported the matter to the Ombudsman on September 2, 2013.
The royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse continues.