Wednesday 23 August 2017

Tusla failures to correct errors which resulted in false sex allegations were 'absolutely coincidences', inquiry told

Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the Disclosures Tribunal. Photo: Collins
Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the Disclosures Tribunal. Photo: Collins

Gerard Cunningham

A senior Tusla manager has said that the failure by Tusla to correct a series of errors which resulted in false allegations of child abuse being made against garda whistle blower Maurice McCabe were "absolutely coincidences".

The Charleton tribunal is examining claims that allegations of sexual abuse were used as part of a campaign to smear and undermine the reputation of Sgt McCabe. The DPP decided against pressing charges in the case due to lack of evidence in 2007.

Tribunal barrister Pat Marrinan SC said there had been a "total failure" of systems in Tusla, and "every error that is made to the detriment of Sgt McCabe. There isn't an error in his favour."

"There are those who may say that this litany of grave errors can't just be coincidence after coincidence," he said.

"I think they are terrible errors consistently but they were absolutely coincidences," said Gerard Lowry, the Tusla area manager for Cavan-Monaghan.

Mr Lowry said in his opening evidence that he did not remember Sgt McCabe attending child protection meetings, but Mr Marrinan cited several examples the tribunal had discovered dating to 2004 where the sergeant was present, and had been put on "core teams" to deal with protection issues.

"It is not just simply the odd meeting that Sgt McCabe is attending," Mr Marrinan said.

Mr Lowry said he accepted that was the record.

Mr Marrinan said that despite the tribunal's request that anyone with information came forward, it was not until late in its inquiries that investigators learned that Sgt McCabe was known to social workers.

"Until that the tribunal were unaware anybody in Tusla knew Maurice McCabe, knew anything about him being in the media," the barrister said.

"By and large the statements we received were of one page in length and didn't really deal with the issues," Mr Marrinan said.

Mr Lowry said that when he received an email about Sgt McCabe, identified as "MMcC", in 2014 he "knew who the email referred to when I received it".

The email referred to allegations made to RIAN, a counselling service, by Ms D, who had made allegations against the sergeant in 2006. More serious allegations from an unrelated case by of Ms Y, were added in error to the file on Sgt McCabe.

"I instinctively said deal with this in the normal way. Don't make an exception of it, deal with it in the normal way," Mr Lowry said.

Mr Lowry said he erred in not ensuring that records were fully corrected once the mistakes were uncovered by Tusla.

"I think when there is a data error of this nature we should have looked at the records to see if we created records," he said.

Mr Lowry said he "was aware RIAN had sent false information re a rape offences. My error was in not checking what records we had created as a result of the RIAN information."

Mr Marrinan said that by May 2014 Sgt McCabe was in the public eye "and here was your service notifying the gardai that Sgt McCabe had a rape allegation made against him when that wasn't true. Can you imagine anything more serious?"

"I agree with that," said Mr Lowry.

Mr Marrinan said there was a suggestion "in the ether" that the false allegations "played into senior management's hands" and that the allegations could be used to discommode or unsettle Sgt McCabe, and if allowed fester and emerge later, to break his resolve by having a letter arrive on his doorstep saying he was being investigated for raping a young child.

"We need some sort of an explanation as to why the matter wasn't dealt with there and then and resolved," Mr Marrinan said.

Mr Lowry said he was aware of the publicity surrounding Sgt McCabe, but didn't think "there might be some misinterpretation down the line."

He said that he did not look at an email attachment containing a draft letter to be sent to Sgt McCabe in late 2015, which contained false allegations.

Tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said it was "jumping out at everyone that it's the wrong allegation" in the draft letter.

"When I saw the email I didn't look at the draft letter," he told the tribunal. "I was working on the assumption that it was accurate."

Mr Justice Charleton asked how this could be so, given the number of errors Tusla were already aware of in the case.

"I didn't look at the attachment," Mr Lowry said.

The tribunal continues tomorrow.

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