Charleton Tribunal: Journalist says he was not given file on Ms D allegation against Maurice McCabe
The journalist who interviewed the young woman who made a sexual assault allegation against Sgt Maurice McCabe has rejected suggestions he was given a garda file on the case.
Irish Independent correspondent and Newstalk broadcaster Paul Williams said he was aware of the suggestion but described it as being “completely and absolutely without truth” and “completely baseless”.
Mr Williams also said he was never briefed by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, former commissioner Martin Callinan or former Garda press officer David Taylor in relation to rumours which circulated about Sgt McCabe.
Mr Williams told the Disclosures Tribunal he was contacted directly by Ms D’s father and told she wished to speak to him.
He had not sought her out and was not previously aware of her case.
Mr Williams said he had been aware of “vague rumours” circulating about Sgt McCabe, but did not know what Ms D had alleged against him until he sat down to interview her in March 2014.
Two articles were published in the Irish Independent the following month referring to an unnamed woman who believed her complaint of sexual assault against an unnamed garda had not been properly investigated.
The tribunal has previously heard how, as a teenager, Ms D complained to gardaí in 2006 that she had been molested by Sgt McCabe when she was aged six or seven during a game of hide and seek in his home.
The complaint was investigated but no prosecution was directed by the DPP.
However, a visit to a counsellor in 2013 triggered a series of events which led to a completely erroneous allegation of digital rape being notified to HSE social service and gardaí.
The tribunal is investigating whether there was a conspiracy against Sgt McCabe and if the incorrect allegation was used by senior gardaí to smear him.
Questioned by Diarmaid McGuinness, counsel for the tribunal, Mr Williams said he was contacted by Ms D’s father, a garda, after two other journalists had come their home.
“They basically said they were concerned people knew her identity, that she had made an allegation against Sgt McCabe some years earlier,” said Mr Williams.
He said he was told Ms D was “upset” as media reports of Sgt McCabe’s whistleblowing activity had “brought it all up again”.
Mr Williams said her parents struck him as “very decent people” who were concerned for their daughter.
He said he believed they were acting on her instructions by contacting him.
Under questioning, Mr Williams said he did not consult with any senior gardaí before going to Ms D’s family home.
Mr McGuinness said it had been suggested that Mr Williams may have been an unwitting puppet for senior gardaí engaged in a smear campaign.
“I have read that extensively and it is absolutely false,” Mr Williams said.
He paid two visits to Ms D’s home. The first, on March 5, 2014, was to speak to her parents.
He returned on March 9 with a videographer to conduct the interview with Ms D.
Asked about about the extent of his knowledge in advance of the interview, Mr Williams said: “There were vague rumours going around. That his highlighting of malpractice issues was due to a grievance from years beforehand. They were very vague.”
Mr Williams said he did not know where the rumours came from.
He said that about a week after the interview he contacted Supt Taylor by phone with a series of questions.
He wanted to know had an investigation taken place, what was the decision of the DPP, was there an arrest and was the investigation logged on the Garda Pulse computer system.
The journalist said Supt Taylor went away to do some research and later came back to him to confirm an investigation took place, a file had been sent to the DPP and no charges were directed.
The tribunal heard that in a subsequent statement to the Garda Ombudsman, in which Ms D complained about the way her complaint was investigated, she said Mr Williams told her the case was known to a lot of senior gardaí and people in Government.
Mr Williams said this comment was based on “a throwaway remark” Supt Taylor made to him.
He confirmed that he had helped Ms D get in contact with Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin, who had been raising concerns in the Dáil about the adequacy of garda investigations based on a dossier he had been given by Sgt McCabe.
Mr Williams also confirmed he helped Ms D arrange a meeting with Alan Shatter, after he had stepped down as justice minister.
He said he had previously helped victims of crime arrange meetings with politician and would do so again without hesitation.
Asked by Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, about his interaction with Supt Taylor, Mr Williams said he had rung him with straightforward questions and answers were later provided.
Mr McDowell asked whether it was appropriate for Supt Taylor to provide the journalist with confidential information about an investigation into an individual.
Mr Williams said this was a question better directed to Supt Taylor.
“I ask questions for a living. If people want to answer them, they will answer them. If they don’t, they don’t,” he said.
Mr McDowell said Mr Williams had told the tribunal in an interview that he had pressed Supt Taylor for detail on the DPP’s directions.
The barrister read from a letter an official in the DPP’s office had written to the State Solicitor for Co Cavan.
The letter said: “Even if there wasn’t a doubt about her credibility, the incident that she describes does not constitute a sexual offence or indeed an assault”.
Mr Williams said that Supt Taylor left him "with a different impression" of the nature of the DPP's directions.
He said he was not told the terms of the DPP's direction.
Asked if he felt he was misled, Mr Williams said he was just told the DPP was not preferring charges.
He said he may have been told there was "insufficient evidence".
Mr Williams agreed that his questions were answered on an off the record basis.
When he sought an on the record quote, he got no official comment.
Asked if he thought Supt Taylor went on “a solo run” by responding to the queries or if he was authorised to do so by the Garda Commissioner, Mr Williams said: “I don’t know.”
Mr McDowell said Mr Williams went as close as possible to identifying Sgt McCabe in his articles without actually naming him. Mr Williams denied this.