Friday 18 August 2017

Father of 'Ms D' got 'fierce shock' when shown mistaken report concerning Sgt Maurice McGabe and looked for correction

Laura Brophy Picture: Collins
Laura Brophy Picture: Collins

Shane Phelan and Gerard Cunningham

A psychologist whose error led to a false report of child sex abuse being made against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe has denied being part of any conspiracy against him.

Laura Brophy was asked by the chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, if there was any way she could have forwarded the false report deliberately.

She replied: “There is no way I would have done anything like that.”

Ms Brophy was giving evidence for a second day at the tribunal, which is investigating the circumstances surrounding how a false claim of sex abuse was recorded and whether it was used by senior gardaí to smear Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal had already heard evidence that a report compiled by Ms Brophy, who works for the HSE’s Rian counselling service, contained incorrect information regarding a complaint by a woman known as Ms D against Sgt McCabe.

Ms D’s allegation was that Sgt McCabe had “dry humped” her when she was six or seven years of age while they were playing hide and seek.

But a report forwarded by Ms Brophy to HSE child protection services in August 2013, which was in turn forwarded to gardaí, contained a more serious allegation, not made by Ms D.

This appears to have been lifted in error from a report dealing with another client of Ms Brophy, known as Ms Y.

She has been unable to explain how this happened.

Mr Justice Charleton said that around the time the incorrect report was made, Sgt McCabe was the subject of a disciplinary investigation after a computer seized in a child sex abuse case went missing from a Garda evidence room.

Sgt McCabe was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

Mr Justice Charleton noted that Sgt McCabe had been interviewed about the missing computer in June 2013 and that Ms D’s referral to Rian came the following month.

Referring to the timing of events, Mr Justice Charleton said: “Can you appreciate that if you had done something deliberate it would have caused maximum damage?”

Ms Brophy said she did appreciate the magnitude of the situation.

“I can see how it would have been catastrophic. I would never have been complicit in anything like that,” she said.

Ms Brophy said she was not aware of the investigation into the missing computer.

She also said that there had been no direct contact from gardaí subsequent to the mistake in the report being discovered by her in May 2014.

Ms Brophy said she was no friends or relations in An Garda Síochána.

Earlier, Ms Brophy said she realised she set in train "an appalling injustice" against Sgt McCabe.

During questioning from Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, it emerged Ms D had been hoping to become a garda herself around the time she was seen by Ms Brophy.

However, Ms D was worried that reporting the alleged abuse would damage her chances to joining the force.

Ms Brophy said Ms D had described Sgt McCabe as “a whistleblower”, but the psychologist said she was not told what this related to and was not familiar with stories about Sgt McCabe in the media at the time.

Meanwhile, questioned by Michael McDowell SC. on behalf of Sgt McCabe, she said she did not know that some of the incorrect information remained on garda records even after she made efforts to rectify the mistake.

"I knew immediately that I'd made an error when I saw it in black and white," Ms Brophy said.

She said she was "extremely anxious" to fix the error. As a result she contacted her superior Fiona Ward, other social work teams, and gardaí.

Mr McDowell said that although the abuse allegation was amended, a sentence alleging that Sgt McCabe threatened to kill the father of Ms D if she spoke to anyone remained on garda records. Ms Brophy said this was the first time she had heard this.

Mr McDowell said the errors "set in train an appalling injustice as far as Sgt McCabe was concerned."

Tribunal barrister Diarmaid McGuinness SC said that this error was made by Tusla in amending the files, and did not have anything to do with Ms Brophy.

The tribunal also heard that standard forms and procedures for reporting historical child abuse have been changed since the error was made in 2013.

Fiona Ward, a director of counselling with RIAN, a free counselling service under the remit of the HSE, said that new procedures had also been put in place so that clients of the service could review the reports for accuracy before they were sent.

Ms Ward said that in May 2014, she was contacted by Ms Brophy, after she had just discovered her error.

She said that incorrect details were included in a report of historical abuse, including the name of another client of the counselling service, Ms Y.

"Given the gravity, it had to be corrected," Ms Ward said.

Ms Ward said that because the only information about Ms Y included in the report was her surname, she was advised that it did not constitute a data protection breach, but an administrative error, as the data was not sufficient to identify her.

Ms Ward was advised to retrieve copies of the erroneous report which had been sent to Social Worker services, the National Counselling Service and the gardai and ensure the reports were shredded.

She said when she reported that, the gardai said they needed to keep the original report on file. She was advised there was no reason for this and it should be retrieved.

Michael O'Higgins SC, on behalf of the garda commissioner, said that Ms D's father, a garda colleague of Sgt McCabe, "got a fierce shock" and "felt sick to his stomach" when he was shown the inaccurate report in 2014.

The barrister was quoting from a statement the father had made to tribunal investigators. After he spoke to his daughter about the report, Ms D contacted Ms Brophy to correct the mistaken report.

Ms Brophy then made efforts to correct wrong information.

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