Tuesday 17 July 2018

No evidence found on garda computer systems to support allegations over negative whistleblower briefings, tribunal told

Maurice McCabe pictured at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Picture: Collins
Maurice McCabe pictured at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle. Picture: Collins

Gerard Cunningham

No evidence was found on garda computer systems or electronic devices to support the allegations of former press officer Supt David Taylor that he was instructed to give negative briefings to the media about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

Two scientists from the Forensic Service Northern Ireland (FSNI) told the Charleton tribunal that they examined telephones and computers which were used by Supt Taylor and by former garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O'Sullivan between July 2012 and May 2014, the period when Supt Taylor was at the garda press office.

Computer systems at Garda HQ, including the PULSE system, were also examined.

The tribunal is examining allegations by Supt Taylor that he was directed by former garda commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively on Sgt McCabe. Mr Callinan denies the allegation.

Elaine Strachan of the FSNI told the tribunal that she examined three telephones which had been used by Supt Taylor, two telephones which were used by Mr Callinan, and two telephones and an iPad used by Ms O'Sullivan.

Text (SMS) messages on the first phone used by Mr Callinan had been deleted, Ms Strachan told the tribunal. The second phone had been handed back to Garda HQ by Mr Callinan when it developed a fault, and after it was repaired it was assigned to another officer. No information from the time when Mr Callinan used the device remained on the phone.

No evidence to support Supt Taylor's allegation was found on any of three phones which were used by Supt Taylor between September 2014 and May 2015, after he was reassigned from the press office.

An iPad which was used by Ms O'Sullivan contained no evidence to support Supt Taylor's claim that he was instructed by Mr Callinan to give negative briefings, or that Ms O'Sullivan was aware of such an instruction.

Laptops unaccounted for: Former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers/Irish Independent
Laptops unaccounted for: Former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan. Photo: Damien Eagers/Irish Independent

An Apple iPhone 4 which had been used by Ms O'Sullivan, and was given to her son, also contained no relevant data, and all information recovered from the phone related to the former commissioner's son. Two Samsung Galaxy phones which were used by Ms O'Sullivan in 2016 and 2017 also contained no relevant evidence.

Mark McConnell of the FSNI said he examined a laptop used by Supt Taylor during his time as press officer, using a list of 33 keywords suggested by the tribunal.

Keywords included McCabe, Cabe, Whistleblower, Rat, child, child abuse, kiddy fiddler, reputation, negative publicity, and the name of Miss D. No files found using these words were relevant to the tribunal's inquiries.

Supt Taylor did not have access to his garda email account on the laptop, the tribunal heard. A search of an image of the computer hard drive also yielded negative results.

A computer which was used by Mr Callinan, and purchased from Garda HQ on his retirement, was wiped and reset to factory settings on 4 April 2014, "in accordance with Garda protocol", tribunal barrister Ms Kathleen Leader said. No data before that date was available, Mr McConnell said.

Mr McConnell also examined various computer systems at Garda HQ, including the Garda PULSE system.

One Garda System which holds garda correspondence, contained two "potentially relevant" files relating to Sgt McCabe but neither was about briefing negatively, Mr McConnell said.

One of these files related to a Fixed Charge Penalty system complaint. The second related to correspondence from the Northern Region assistant commissioner's office in Sligo containing a Tusla notification of suspected child abuse. The correspondence, received by Garda HQ on 16 May 2014, contained a scanned PDF and a Word document.

Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.
Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.

The Tribunal has previously heard evidence of the creation of a Tusla file in error after a 2006 allegation against the sergeant resurfaced. The allegations by Miss D had been dismissed by the DPP after the 2006 garda investigation but when they resurfaced they were incorrectly recorded as a more serious allegation.

A copy of the Tusla notification was also held on FileShare, a file storage system. FileShare also contained seven documents relating to Sgt McCabe, which related to policing issues in the Cavan-Monaghan district. One of the documents, a "Chronological Sequence Report" made reference to the Miss D allegations.

Barrister Donal McGuinness, on behalf of Mr Callinan, asked the witness to confirm that "any information at all denigrating Sgt McCabe would have been considered relevant and no such information was found." Mr McConnell agreed this was the case.

Ms Leader said that there were two "privileged systems" Mr McConnell was not granted access to, and witnesses will give evidence on those systems tomorrow.

Supt Taylor is scheduled to begin his evidence next week.

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