Monday 16 September 2019

Gardai and Tusla 'have no case to answer' about whistleblower complaints, lawyers tell Charleton tribunal

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures
Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gerard Cunningham

Lawyers for Tusla and Garda officers have told the Charleton tribunal that their clients have no case to answer in relation to complaints by whistle blower Garda Keith Harrison.

The lawyers were making their submissions at the end of the current module which is looking at contacts between gardaí and the HSE/Tusla relating to Gda Harrison.

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, on behalf of Tusla, said that a letter sent to the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, in February 2017 was intended to "attack and undermine the credibility reputation and good standing" of his clients.

Mr McDermott said that when Gda Harrison's partner, Marisa Simms, came to give evidence to the tribunal under oath she did not stand over the central allegation in the letter, that Tusla social workers were investigating her family because of pressure being applied by gardai.

"This module of the tribunal was set up on the basis of an allegation that not only isn't true but wasn't stood over by the witness," Mr McDermott said.

Referring to an Italian play, "Six Characters in Search of an Author", Mr McDermott said the module could be described as "six legal teams in search of a focus." He said the Tribunal's terms of reference for the module were set up on the basis of a very specific allegation that wasn't true, and there was no evidence Tusla acted in anything other than a proper manner.

Mícheal P O'Higgins SC, on behalf of the Garda Commissioner, said that garda officers acted properly and that there was no "campaign" against Gda Harrison.

The barrister said that if there had been malicious intent, there would have been an enthusiasm to discipline Gda Harrison, but that many things were let pass.

Mr O'Higgins said that any troubles in Gda Harrison's domestic life were of his own making, and his relationship with Ms Simms was complicated and difficult in 2013.

Desmond Dockery SC said that Inspector Goretti Sheridan and Sergeant Brigid McGowan's actions were "fair, reasonable and proportionate" in seeking a statement from Ms Simms about Gda Harrison, in light of the seriousness of the allegations reported to them.

Mr Dockery said that the statement was recorded accurately and faithfully, and the interview was conducted in a fair and humane manner.

Mr Dockery said there was no conspiracy or solo run by any of his clients to cajole or coerce a statement from Ms Simms.

Mark Harty SC, on behalf of Gda Harrison, said that the search for documents by gardai had been too limited in the search terms used, and asked the tribunal to conduct a "broader" search of all documents relating to Gda Harrison during the period August 2013 to March 2014.

Mr Harty also requested a search for documents relating to any contacts between Tusla social workers Bridgeen Smith and Donna McTeague with Sgt McGowan.

Mr Harty said that he did not accept that retired assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny could say "from the other side of the world" that he did not recall a meeting in which a briefing on Gda Harrison was given, and that a proper statement of evidence from Mr Kenny should be heard.

The tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said the inquiry had examined 2837 documents, a "mammoth undertaking". He said he believed that all the relevant information had been aired by tribunal counsel.

Mr Conor Power SC, on behalf of Chief Supt Terry McGinn, said there was no evidence to support the assertion made by Gda Harrison that the chief superintendent had acted in malice against him.

Mr Power said that Chief Supt McGinn had acted in accordance with her duties as she was required to in good faith.

In closing submissions, Mr Harty asked if gardai believed that Gda Harrison had made real threats against Ms Simms as outlined in an October 2013 statement, then why were those threats not investigated immediately. Instead, Mr Harty said, nothing was done until the end of January 2014.

Mr Harty said that the proof that there was malice against Gda Harrison was in two letters written by Chief Supt McGinn, the first seeking to suspend Gda Harrison from duty, and the second requesting a disciplinary inquiry against him.

The tribunal resumes on Wednesday, when it will hear from a witness relating to an earlier module concerning Sgt Maurice McCabe who was unable to give evidence earlier in the year.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News