Inspector denies forcing whistleblower's partner to make Garda statement
A garda inspector has denied forcing the partner of whistleblower Keith Harrison to make a statement against him, in testimony to the Charleton tribunal.
Inspector Goretti Sheridan faced cross-examination from Hugh Hartnett SC, representing Gda Harrison's partner Marisa Simms, yesterday.
On October 6, 2013, Ms Simms made a lengthy statement in Letterkenny Garda station to Insp Sheridan and Sergeant Brigid McGowan. In the statement, Ms Simms outlined her relationship with Gda Harrison.
"If Marisa Simms wants to make a statement she could make a statement," Insp Sheridan said. "I wouldn't force Marisa Simms or anybody else to make a statement."
Mr Hartnett said that the inspector "set out as best you could to get a statement using the wiles of an investigating officer".
Insp Sheridan said her job was "to talk to her and ask if she wants to make a statement".
"I'm not going to force her to sit down and make a statement," said Insp Sheridan.
Insp Sheridan said that "very, very serious allegations" had been made about Gda Harrison by third parties - Ms Simms's mother, sister, uncle and a cousin - who had already come forward to gardaí.
Mr Hartnett said that Ms Simms was "exhausted" and "dead tired" at the end of the statement, which was made over an eight-hour period. Mr Hartnett said this was an "exceptional length of time" to take a statement.
"Even the best of Donegal seanachaí would find it difficult to talk in a stream for eight hours or more," Mr Hartnett said, referring to traditional storytellers.
Insp Sheridan said that statements in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse or rape often took a long time.
She said that Ms Simms was "alert and knew what she was doing".
Insp Sheridan said that there had been a general conversation for two or three hours with Ms Simms, following which she had made the statement.
Insp Sheridan said her "key concern" was the welfare of Ms Simms's children.
On January 11, 2014, Ms Simms called to Letterkenny garda station and withdrew her statement. Insp Sheridan said it was "totally incorrect" to claim she had prepared the statement and put it to Ms Simms.
Insp Sheridan disagreed with Mr Hartnett that she had been "somewhat frigid" and "showed displeasure" when Ms Simms later returned to the station to withdraw the statement.
The tribunal also heard that Gda Paul Wallace met with Gda Harrison on October 7, the day after Ms Simms had made her statement. In a subsequent report sent to his superiors in October 2013, Gda Wallace said that Gda Harrison "appeared quite agitated and nervous".