Sunday 18 February 2018

Examination of garda computers showed no evidence of DPP letter forgery, detective's trial told

Garda Catherine McGowan
Garda Catherine McGowan

Declan Conlon

The trial of a detective accused of forging a letter from the DPP has heard that examination of garda computers at the accused’s station showed no evidence of them being used to create the letter.

Wicklow detective Garda Catherine McGowan (48), who is based at Bray Garda Station, has pleaded not guilty to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda Station and at Harcourt Street Garda Station between June 21 and 22, 2011.

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

The letter read: “Dear Sir, I (illegible) to yours. In (illegible) the statement of the complainant…could not possibly form the basis of a prosecution given that the complainant’s allegation of rape is only conjecture.”

On day four of the trial, Detective Garda John Finan of the Computer Crime Unit testified that a search of two computer hard drives used at the station for phrases from the letter gave no results.

He said that it would be possible to find traces of the letter even if the original file had been deleted.

Garda Charles Nicholson told Alex Owens SC, prosecuting, that he worked in the unit dealing with filing and tracking correspondence at the station in 2006 when the last changes to the criminal case file were made. Describing notes written on the outside of the file, he said that one referred to a letter that could not be found in the system.

Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, described the filing system at the station as “fairly haphazard” and gave a photograph of a storeroom at the garda station to members of the jury. Mr Marrinan also said that thirty percent of files requested in a Garda Professional Standards Unit review of the station could not be found.

Gda Nicholson said that the picture showed a different room from the one used for station correspondence, and that files in his office were stored “safely and securely”. He agreed with Mr Marrinan that there was no record of three letters that should have been logged. The letters were unrelated to the case.

The trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks, continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and jury of six men and six women.

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