Monday 23 October 2017

Detective on trial for the alleged forgery of DPP letter

Garda Catherine McGowan
Garda Catherine McGowan

Conor Gallagher

A detective has gone on trial accused of forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions in relation to the investigation of a priest accused of sexual abuse.

Detective Garda Catherine McGowan has pleaded not guilty to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station where she is based.

She also pleaded not guilty to two counts of using a false instrument at Bray and Harcourt Street Garda Stations between June 21 and 22, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the DPP dated January 14, 2009.

In his opening speech to the jury, prosecuting counsel Alex Owens SC said that Gda McGowan had forged the letter to "hoodwink" gardaí who were reviewing whether she had acted properly in investigating allegations of sexual abuse by a priest of a teenage girl.

The investigation of Gda McGowan's handling of the case was prompted by the publication of the Murphy Report, which investigated clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin area. The priest in Gda McGowan's case was one of the clerics mentioned in the report.

Counsel said the jury will hear evidence of a copy of a letter, supposedly from the DPP, which directed prosecution of the priest would be "impossible" because of "conjecture" in the alleged victim's statement.

"This document is not genuine, it is a bogus document," Mr Owens said. "It is a copy of an original that never existed."

Counsel said there will be evidence that Gda McGowan (48) never sent the case file to anyone including the DPP, Chief State Solicitor or her superintendent. The first witness, Sergeant Diane Swift, told the jury that a special task force was set up in the aftermath of the Murphy Report by the garda commissioner to investigate how sex abuse cases were handled by the church and state authorities.

Sgt Swift said the unit investigated allegations in relation to 46 priests named in the Murphy report and that she was assigned one priest who had 500 documents relating to allegations against him.

The sergeant said she contacted Gda McGowan who said she was still working on the case, but "that it was going nowhere anyway". The accused allegedly later told Sgt Swift she believed the complainant was 18 at the time of the sexual encounters.

The sergeant requested the investigative file from the case and any directions that had been received from the DPP.

Sgt Swift told counsel that she received statements relating to the abuse case and a photocopy of a letter purporting to be from the office of the DPP.

Sgt Swift said she passed it on to the exhibits officer.

The trial continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and a jury of six men and six women.

Irish Independent

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