Monday 18 November 2019

'Officers didn't act improperly on McCabe report' - HSE official

Fiona Ward, at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin yesterday, was questioned about the report on Sgt Maurice McCabe. Picture: Collins
Fiona Ward, at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin yesterday, was questioned about the report on Sgt Maurice McCabe. Picture: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

An HSE official said she did not believe gardaí sought to make improper use of an incorrect report containing a child sex abuse allegation against Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

Fiona Ward, a director of counselling at HSE's Rian counselling service, said she believed gardaí were concerned about establishing how the error occurred and whether the case was a new one or one which had previously been investigated.

She told the Disclosures Tribunal she did not believe gardaí had sought to use the incorrect report to "open an old wound" for Sgt McCabe at a time he was gaining notice for his whistleblowing.

Ms Ward was the line manager for counsellor Laura Brophy, whose mistake led to an incorrect allegation of abuse being recorded against Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal has heard Ms Brophy sent a report to HSE social services in August 2013 after providing counselling to a woman known as Ms D.

During those sessions, Ms D alleged she was "dry humped" by Sgt McCabe during a game of hide and seek when she was aged six or seven. The matter had previously been investigated and the DPP directed there be no prosecution.

But the report forwarded to HSE social services, details of which were subsequently passed on to gardaí, erroneously included an incorrect allegation of digital penetration, both vaginal and anal.

The tribunal is investigating how the incorrect report was made and whether it was subsequently used by senior gardaí to smear Sgt McCabe.

Ms Ward said she wrote to Chief Supt James Sheridan in Cavan requesting that all copies of the incorrect report be returned, but the officer wrote back seeking clarification of a number of matters. He asked if the report related to an allegation previously investigated in 2006 or if it was a new claim requiring garda investigation.

He also asked how the error occurred.

Ms Ward replied that she understood Ms D had previously made a report that was investigated, and that the information in the new report related to a different client and a different alleged perpetrator.

Her letter also said the mistake was brought to Ms Brophy's attention by Ms D, but did not explain how the error was made.

Chief Supt Sheridan instructed Insp Pat O'Connell to contact Ms Ward seeking further clarification.

Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, put it to Ms Ward that she had been "less than 100pc helpful in her response" to the Chief Supt.

"It left him completely in the dark as to what happened," he said.

Mr McDowell said Ms Ward "deliberately gave him no information as to how the error took place" and asked if she had been trying to protect someone.

Ms Ward denied she had been trying to protect anyone. "I don't think I was in any way intending to be evasive," she said.

She subsequently clarified to Insp O'Connell that the mistake arose from a "typographical" error.

Irish Independent

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