Friday 19 October 2018

No negative briefing by garda, say journalists

Paul Williams arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal
Paul Williams arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal

Andrew Phelan

Crime journalist Paul Williams has denied he called a Garda press officer from the home of a woman who once made a sexual assault complaint against a whistleblower and said: "Guess where I am?"

Mr Williams told the Disclosures Tribunal he interviewed the young woman who made the claims about Sgt Maurice McCabe for Irish Independent articles in 2014.

However, he denied having any prior discussion about Sgt McCabe with then press officer Supt Dave Taylor, or that he was "negatively briefed" as part of a smear campaign.

RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds also rejected Supt Taylor's claim that he too was negatively briefed by Supt Taylor, saying this "didn't happen".

The two were giving evidence to the tribunal, which is investigating an alleged smear campaign by senior gardaí against Sgt McCabe. Supt Taylor claims he negatively briefed journalists that Sgt McCabe was investigated over a historic allegation of child sexual assault.

He alleges he was ordered to do so in mid-2013 by then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan. They both deny his allegations.

While Sgt McCabe was investigated over a complaint made by a woman known as Ms D, the DPP decided in 2007 there should be no charges and that what was described did not amount to a crime.

Yesterday, Mr Williams testified that he went to Ms D's home to interview her after her father contacted him. He had heard "vague" rumours about Sgt McCabe but nothing specific until he went to her house.

Mr Williams said he interviewed Ms D on March 8 and called Supt Taylor on March 10 to check the details. Supt Taylor confirmed to him that there had been an investigation, and there was no prosecution.

He denied calling Supt Taylor from Ms D's house, saying: "Guess where I am?"

Mr Reynolds said he first heard there had been an allegation about Sgt McCabe some time in 2013. It had been "circulating in media and Garda circles".

Once he heard that the DPP decided there would not be a prosecution, "as far as I was concerned, it was nothing to do with me as a reporter".

The tribunal heard Supt Taylor claimed he had "opportunistically" briefed Mr Reynolds during conversations.

"That didn't happen and anybody who knows how reporters work in the field knows that couldn't happen," Mr Reynolds said. "The idea that the press officer would sidle over to you in the middle of a particular story and try to talk to you about something completely different is something that doesn't make sense."

Mr Reynolds' evidence is due to continue today.

Irish Independent

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