Monday 28 May 2018

Referral against whistleblower garda 'unusual', says investigator

Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal yesterday. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Gerard Cunningham

A senior Garda Ombudsman investigator has said the referral of a complaint against a garda whistleblower was "strange" and did not meet the required definition of serious harm.

Johan Groenewald, an investigator with Gsoc, told the Charleton Tribunal yesterday that the referral of the complaint against Garda Keith Harrison was made under Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act, relating to gardaí causing serious harm or death.

Mr Groenewald met Gda Harrison in July 2015, when the garda whistleblower outlined several complaints to him.

In a statement, Gda Harrison said that Mr Groenewald expressed concerns about how a statement by Garda Harrison's partner Marisa Simms was "forced on Gsoc" by Chief Supt Terry McGinn.

Gda Harrison said Mr Groenewald told him the referral, and the manner in which the statement was obtained in the first place, was "extremely unusual".

Mr Groenewald said he had no recollection of saying it was unusual. But he said the referral was strange, as the alleged threats outlined in the statement did not meet the definition of serious harm required in the Garda Síochána Act.

He said he would have expected a referral to be made under Section 85 of the Act, which covered less serious complaints.

Mr Groenewald also said he would be surprised if there had been no Garda investigation into Ms Simms's statement.

Witness Superintendent Michael Finan told the tribunal that on October 8, 2013, he was called to attend a Garda conference concerning Gda Harrison.

He was told the conference was in relation to "a statement (that) had been made by Marisa Simms in relation to alleged conduct by Gda Harrison and also in relation to threats made against Gda Harrison".

Attending the meeting were Chief Supt Terry McGinn, Supt Eugene McGovern, Det Insp Patrick O'Donnell, and Insp Goretti Sheridan.

Supt Finan said he did not recall the exact detail of the conference, but the discussion centred around whether a referral to Gsoc should take place under Section 85 or Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act.

"The main conversation regarding it took place between Chief Supt McGinn and Supt McGovern," Supt Finan said.

Earlier, the tribunal heard that Chief Supt McGinn and Supt McGovern considered psychological harm as a result of a threat, or potential future harm if a threat were carried out, could meet the definition of "serious harm" required to make a Section 102 referral to Gsoc.

Supt Finan also told the tribunal that he had no involvement in referring Ms Simms's statement to the HSE.

Irish Independent

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