Monday 16 September 2019

Statements from three senior gardaí submitted to Charleton

Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn
Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn
Former Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny

Gerard Cunningham

Three of four statements requested from senior Garda officers on Wednesday evening were handed in to the Charleton tribunal, a barrister for the inquiry has said.

Tribunal barrister Diarmaid McGuinness said statements from Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn, Chief Superintendent Tony McLoughlin and Superintendent Eugene McGovern were received by the inquiry yesterday morning.

A fourth officer, retired assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny, was "on the far side of the world" and unable to provide a statement at this time, the barrister said.

The tribunal asked for the statements after it heard about handwritten notes taken by Chief Supt McGinn at a Garda conference in Letterkenny station on October 8, 2013.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton wanted to know what knowledge each of the officers had about the meeting, which took place two days after a statement of complaint was made by Marisa Simms, the partner of whistleblower Garda Keith Harrison.

Mr McGuinness said that he understood Mr Kenny had no recollection of the events, but was not in a position to check his papers until he returned to Ireland.

Mr McGuinness said Chief Supt McGinn's handwritten notes were handed in to Garda HQ several months ago, but had not been forwarded to the tribunal. The tribunal barrister said when Garda HQ was reviewing documents relevant to the tribunal, on its face it appeared that the note did not refer to Tusla or HSE, and so it was not forwarded to the tribunal.

In the current module, the tribunal is looking at contacts between gardaí and the HSE/Tusla relating to Gda Harrison.

Mícheál P O'Higgins SC said he regretted the error in documentation provided to the inquiry, and Garda HQ was reviewing its processes to ensure such an error did not occur again in the future, and there was "no question of concealment".

"As I said yesterday, I am going to go for the chaos theory before the conspiracy theory," Mr Justice Charleton said. He said tribunals were often "inundated with documents".

Supt Eugene McGovern, cross-examined by Mark Harty SC on behalf of Gda Harrison, said a decision was made to refer Ms Simms's complaint to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) under Section 102 of the Garda Síochána Act. This allows for a referral to GSOC where a Garda has caused death or serious harm to another person. Mr Harty said that distress was not covered by the definition of serious harm, and asked if Donegal gardaí would bring charges of assault causing serious harm where no physical injury occurred.

Supt McGovern said that a decision on what charges to bring would be a question for the DPP and he could not decide on hypothetical cases.

He said gardaí were happy that there was a "substantial risk of death to Ms Simms".

Mr Harty said nobody had given crime prevention advice to Ms Simms, and if an officer of the calibre of the witness believed there was a serious threat, he would have done something about it. "We did. The matter was referred to the Garda Ombudsman," Supt McGovern said.

Mr Harty said the Garda Ombudsman had no powers of arrest or crime prevention powers. He said that in a letter on October 21, Chief Supt McLoughlin wrote asking why officers in Donegal felt a Section 102 referral to GSOC was appropriate.

The letter said the appropriate action would appear to be "for the member concerned to be confined on indoor duties".

In reply, Chief Supt McGinn stated threats made by Gda Harrison, as outlined in the statement by Ms Simms, constituted "a substantial risk of death". Ms Simms later withdrew her statement.

Irish Independent

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