Tuesday 24 April 2018

Charleton Tribunal: Social worker says names of two different alleged abuse victims in file was down to 'human error'

Mr Justice Peter Charleton. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Mr Justice Peter Charleton. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Gerard Cunningham

A social worker has told the Charleton tribunal that “human error” and “an oversight” led to her failing to notice that two different alleged abuse victims were named in a report she had been working on in the one file.

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

Laura Connolly, a duty social worker in Cavan town, has been giving evidence at the tribunal about how two separate and unrelated incidents were amalgamated into a single report.

She said she generated a 2014 report on an alleged incident of sexual abuse involving Sgt McCabe.

The file Ms Connolly worked on held documents containing an accurate report of the allegations made by Ms D against Sgt McCabe, based on a telephone call between counsellor Ms Laura Brophy and her superior.

The file also incorrectly contained allegations from Ms Y, an unrelated and more serious case, which were entered in error into a written report Ms Brophy prepared.

Ms Connolly said she would have relied on the written report, as when a professional put something in writing, that would be something they can stand over, while details can get lost in a phone call.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said it seemed that Ms Connolly had amalgamated both reports in creating the "intake records".

He said he could not understand how the two allegations were combined, or how Ms Connolly had not noticed that there were two different people named in the report, as she had corrected Ms Y's surname to that of Ms D on two occasions.

"My only explanation for that is that I did not detect that in that report there was a different surname in two places," Ms Connolly said.

"That was an oversight on my part and human error."

Earlier in the hearing Ms Connolly said she reviewed the file on Ms D on 30 April 2014.

She saw that "intake records" had not been completed on the sergeant's children in either 2006-2007 when the first complaint was made, or in 2013 when Ms D sought counselling.

Tribunal barrister Kathleen Leader BL said that coincidentally, Ms D had gone to the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission to make a complaint the day before Ms Connolly opened the intake records.

A number of articles by journalist Paul Williams had also appeared the same month about Ms D, who was not identified in any of the stories.

Ms Connolly said that media reports about Sgt McCabe's role as a whistle-blower at the time were "not a story of interest to me or of any significance to me." She said she listened to radio news while driving, but did not read newspapers or follow news of television or social media.

She said she only became aware of her involvement with the case when she was contacted by an investigator from the tribunal.

The tribunal resumes on Monday.

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