Wednesday 25 April 2018

Disclosures Tribunal: Maurice McCabe accepts inclusion of false rape allegation was due to 'cut and paste error'

Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Gerard Cunningham

Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe accepts that the inclusion of a false rape allegation against him in a HSE report was not the result of any deliberate action or ill will, his lawyer has told the Disclosures tribunal.

Michael McDowell SC said that his client accepted that the evidence established that the inclusion of the false allegation in the 2013 report "was some form of cut and paste error", and that the error was not the result of any deliberate action or ill will.

Mr McDowell was speaking during closing submissions on the first module of the tribunal. Last July the module looked at the creation, distribution and use by Tusla (formerly HSE) of a file which contained false allegations of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe and which was sent to gardaí in 2013.

The module set out to establish whether these false allegations and the file were knowingly used by senior members of gardaí to discredit Sgt McCabe.

In 2006 Ms D made a complaint against Sgt McCabe, which was investigated and led to the DPP recommending no charges, saying there was no evidence of any crime. A Tusla file on Sgt McCabe was subsequently opened after Ms D sought counselling in 2013, to which more serious allegations from an unrelated case were incorrectly added.

Mr McDowell said that the error, however unintentional, should never have occurred, and the document should have been carefully checked or subjected to review before it was sent out. The failure to do that had significant consequences for the McCabe family.

"If any of those checks had happened, the sequence of events which followed would not have happened," Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said it did not stand up to scrutiny that Sgt McCabe's file was "randomly selected" in April 2014, as he was in the public eye.

"I am asking you to reject the suggestion that it was a purely random act, and prefer the explanation that Tusla as an organisation said, we better get our act together," Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said the tribunal would be left with an "unresolved mystery" as to why a garda referral was made on Sgt McCabe's file on 13 April 2014, and the explanation which had been given "doesn't seem to stand together."

"There is a pattern here of utter denial and evasion of responsibility," Mr McDowell said.

Mr McDowell said it was "extraordinary" that a report containing false allegations was left in the Garda Commissioner's office and no attempt made to correct it once new information was received.

He said that if Tusla had not written to Sgt McCabe about the false allegations in January 2016 "for all we know nothing would have been corrected in Tusla and nothing would have been corrected in Garda HQ”.

Mr McDowell said that articles about the allegations, which did not name the sergeant, raised a very grave question mark over the probity of Sgt McCabe.

He said it was strange that journalist Paul Williams, the author of the articles, thought he didn’t have to check the allegations with Sgt McCabe because the sergeant was not named. Mr McDowell said there was "a thin enough veil of anonymity" over Sgt McCabe's identity.

Sarah McKechnie on behalf of Tusla, said there was evidence of deficiencies in case management which Tusla had acknowledged. She said it was that there were unallocated case files, however that was the situation, and the evidence was that those files were selected at random by case workers when there was time to do so.

"Mr McDowell acknowledges in his closing submission that there is no smoking gun here," Ms McKechnie said.

The tribunal has been adjourned until next month.

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