Monday 20 August 2018

Sergeant 'disturbed' by letter sent to Children's Minister

Sergeant Brigid McGowan at the Disclosures Tribunal, Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Sergeant Brigid McGowan at the Disclosures Tribunal, Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gerard Cunningham

A garda sergeant said it was "disturbing" that a letter was sent to Children's Minister Katherine Zappone claiming the sergeant had threatened "repercussions" if the partner of a garda whistleblower failed to make a statement.

Sergeant Brigid McGowan told the Charleton Tribunal that the letter, sent by solicitors for Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms, stated that Ms Simms was "coerced" into making a statement during an eight-hour interview.

She also claimed the letter said that Ms Simms was threatened that there "may be repercussions for her and her children" if she didn't.

Sergeant McGowan said the statement could have been forwarded from the minister to the Department of Justice and from there to the Garda Commissioner and her superiors.

"I just found that very upsetting," she said. Sergeant McGowan said gardaí were obliged to notify the HSE once they received the statement, which contained an account of an incident in which Garda Harrison allegedly threatened Ms Simms in front of her children.

Judgment

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

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, representing Tusla, said the Child and Family Agency was not criticising the amount of information it was given by gardaí, and accepted that gardaí had to "make a judgment call".

Hugh Hartnett, on behalf of Ms Simms, said that Garda Harrison had said: "You're going to get burnt if you don't make up your mind [on] where your loyalties lie," rather than threatening to burn her or bury her.

Sergeant McGowan said she had recorded the words Ms Simms dictated in her statement.

The tribunal hearings continue.

Irish Independent

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