Fr Victor Farrugia, a priest serving in Melbourne, has been charged on summons with eight counts of indecent assault, the Australian media has reported.

In August, Fr Farrugia's lawyers were inadvertently tipped off by the church's privately hired investigator, Peter O'Callaghan, QC, that police were investigating the priest for alleged sexual assault, The Age reported. Police believe Mr O'Callaghan ''mishandled'' communications with the priest's lawyers by providing the inadvertent tip-off.

That left police unable to use several evidence-gathering methods in covert inquiries, including secretly recording an alleged victim phoning the priest. Despite this, officers gathered enough evidence to charge Fr Farrugia last week.

Fr Farrugia is parish priest at St Augustine's Church in Bourke Street.

The Melbourne Archdiocese is yet to unveil changes to the ''Melbourne Response'', its clerical abuse handling process under which Mr O'Callaghan is appointed and paid to investigate clerical abuse allegations and refer victims to a compensation panel. The process has run since 1996 without review.

Changes to the Melbourne Response were requested by police after The Age last year exposed the inadvertent tip-offs to Father Farrugia and another priest, Paul Pavlou.

Mr O'Callaghan told the priests' lawyers that they were under police investigation, without the consent of detectives, and before officers had interviewed the suspects.

Last year, the Victoria Police's sexual crime squad chief, Detective Inspector Glenn Davies, told The Age it was important that the timing of a suspect being notified they were under investigation be left to police.

''It is advantageous that the suspect is unaware of the investigation until the police are in a position to interview them. This stops collusion between parties involved and ensures critical evidence is not destroyed.''

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