Top garda could have cleared up uncertainty over McCabe abuse report, but didn't - Tribunal hears
A garda superintendent never responded to a request from a HSE manager for a meeting to discuss an allegation of abuse against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.
HSE social work team leader Keara McGlone said had the officer, Supt Noel Cunningham, responded to her, the allegation would not have ended up being referred to gardaí.
Ms McGlone gave evidence that she wrote to the superintendent on August 15, 2013, asking for a meeting.
This was after a counsellor with the HSE’s Rian counselling service, Laura Brophy, had contacted Ms McGlone’s colleague Briege Tinnelly, and verbally told her that an allegation had been made against Sgt McCabe by a woman known as Ms D.
Ms D alleged she had been “dry humped” by Sgt McCabe as a child during a game of hide and seek.
Ms McGlone said the HSE was aware an allegation from Ms D had been investigated six years previously and that there was no prosecution.
However, it was her view that there still needed to be a meeting with Sgt McCabe to assess if he posed a risk to any children.
“From my point of view there was an assessment still outstanding,” she said.
But she wanted to confer with gardaí before taking action.
Under questioning from Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, Ms McGlone said she never heard back from Supt Cunningham.
She said she did not take any further steps to chase it up with him.
Ms McGlone said she was dealing with 230 other child abuse cases awaiting allocation.
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As Ms D’s claims related to a historic allegation of abuse, it did not get the same level of priority as other cases.
Ms McGlone said a file on Sgt McCabe was opened following the verbal report by Ms Brophy. She left a note in it saying there was a “duty to notify gardaí”.
She realised soon after that there may be no need to contact gardaí, but wanted clarification from Supt Cunningham about this.
However, she did not remove the instruction to contact gardaí from the file.
Ms McGlone said she got no reply from Supt Cunningham and that, if she had, it would have negated that instruction.
The tribunal heard that in addition to Ms Brophy’s verbal report to the HSE social work department, she also sent a written report, containing a major error.
Ms McGlone said she never saw the written report and assumed it was added to the McCabe file by an administrative staff member.
The report contained a much more serious allegation than the one which had been made by Ms D.
It included an allegation, apparently copied in error from the a report relating to another woman, Ms Y, who alleged she had been the victim of digital penetration.
A duty social worker subsequently examined the file in May 2014 and initiated a garda notification, based on the details contained in the incorrect report.
Michael McDowell SC, counsel for Sgt McCabe, asked why Ms Brophy’s written report was not brought to the attention of Ms McGlone or Ms Tinelly before being included in the HSE file.
Ms McGlone said she she imagined whoever included it on the file assumed it contained the same details as those which had been given verbally by Ms Brophy.
Mr McDowell asked her if, as a result of the state she had left the file in, it was inevitable someone in the HSE would eventually make contact with An Garda Síochána about it.
“Yes. I acknowledge that,” she responded.
Michéal P O’Higgins, counsel for the Garda Commissioner, told the tribunal Supt Cunningham had acknowledged he failed to respond to Ms McGlone’s letter.
The barrister said Supt Cunningham opened the letter in September 2013 after returning from leave.
Mr O’Higgins said Supt Cunningham’s father died that October and he was absent from his office for a period as a result.
“It was in these circumstances that he did not respond,” the barrister said.
Mr O’Higgins said Supt Cunningham “had divined” that Ms D’s allegation had already been investigated in 2006. Nevertheless, he did not respond to Ms McGlone.
“That doesn’t excuse the non-answering of the letter and that is acknowledged,” said Mr O’Higgins.
The tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, said he didn’t see why the death of Supt Cunningham’s father was being brought into the matter as an excuse for not responding to the letter.