Counsellor's 'panic' over false report on whistleblower
The psychologist and counsellor who mistakenly created a report containing a false sexual abuse allegation against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe has said she is unable to clearly explain how the error was made.
Laura Brophy told the Disclosures Tribunal she felt "a wave of panic" when she discovered she had wrongly drafted the report.
It was initially thought a cut and paste error was to blame for the false allegation being included in a file passed from the HSE to gardaí.
However, Ms Brophy said yesterday it was "just not clear" what had occurred.
She was among the first witnesses to give evidence at the tribunal, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding a false allegation of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe and whether it was subsequently used by senior gardaí to smear him.
Ms Brophy, an employee at Rian in Cavan, which is part of the HSE counselling service, told the tribunal she works with adults who may have been the victims of physical or psychological abuse in the past.
In 2013, a woman known as Ms D contacted the service seeking an appointment due to "everyday coping difficulties" and difficulties with relationships. Ms D's father was a garda colleague of Sgt McCabe.
Ms Brophy said she had two meetings with her. According to notes she made of the first meeting, Ms D said she had been abused by a colleague of her father during a game of hide and seek when she was six or seven. She alleged this involved "molesting and dry humping me". Ms D said she only recollected the incident when she was 12 or 13 years of age.
According to the note, Ms D said her abuser was a garda in Bailieborough, Co Cavan, who was "forced out" when the allegations were made.
Sgt McCabe's name was not given to Ms Brophy at the first meeting, but was given to her at the second one.
According to her notes Ms D felt angry after the DPP directed there be no prosecution.
Sgt McCabe has always denied the allegations.
Ms Brophy told counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness SC, she was obliged under Children First guidelines to file a report with HSE social services when an alleged perpetrator of abuse is identified to her.
However, the report filed by her in August 2013 contained incorrect information in a section where the alleged abuse was supposed to be described.
Mr McGuinness said the account was actually that of another woman, Ms Y, who had suffered abuse in childhood, involving digital penetration, both vaginal and anal.
Ms Brophy told Mr McGuinness this was a mistake and Ms D never said anything of the sort to her at any stage.
She told the barrister that there were a number of templates on her computer and presumed she had opened one when making her report on Ms D, but she could not offer a clear explanation. "This has been an issue I have had to think a lot about in trying to understand how the error occurred. I can't say definitively how I inputted the data," she said.
Ms Brophy said she had originally thought the mistake may have occurred due to Ms D's report being filled out immediately after Ms Y.
However, she discovered last week there were actually three other reports filled out between Ms Y's and Ms D's.
Asked by Mr McGuinness if the incorrect information appeared in one of the templates open at the time on her computer, Ms Brophy said: "I can't be definitive about it unfortunately. I have been trying to think since I discovered the error."
The mistake came to her attention in May 2014 when Ms D contacted her in an "emotional, angry and upset" state.
She had discovered that the report with the incorrect information was in Bailieborough garda station.
"She said words to the effect: 'You said I was raped'," Ms Brophy told the tribunal.
Asked if Ms D had been informed by her father of the report received about her in Bailieborough, Ms Brophy said: "That is not 100pc clear."
She also said she didn't know whether Ms D had direct access to the file.
Mr McGuinness said Ms Brophy told the tribunal she had always accepted responsibility for the mistake and had never attempted to shirk or conceal it.