Monday 21 October 2019

Tribunal chairman tells Taylor: 'You’re not answering any of my questions'

Latest from the Disclosures Tribunal

Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.
Former Garda press officer Dave Taylor Picture: Collins Dublin.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The chairman of the Disclosures Tribunal has challenged former Garda press officer Dave Taylor for failing to answer questions put to him.

During tense exchanges, Mr Justice Peter Charleton said: "You're not answering any of my questions superintendent. Literally none of them. You are avoiding every single one."

The flashpoint came after Supt Taylor was repeatedly asked whether he stood over a claim that his phone had been tampered with while he was being investigated in 2016 over the alleged unauthorised disclosure of information to journalists.

No charges arose from the inquiry, but while it was ongoing Supt Taylor initiated judicial review proceedings in the High Court in a bid to have the investigation halted.

In an affidavit filed in that case, Supt Taylor alleged that, on a date unknown, evidence obtained in the course of the investigation was tampered with or interfered with.

This was a reference to a phone seized from Supt Taylor by investigators.

Garda counsel Michéal P O’Higgins asked Supt Taylor if he was standing over or withdrawing that claim.

Supt Taylor responded that the allegation related to a request from Viber, a messaging application, sent to a neighbour’s phone.

"I have never got an explanation for how that Viber request came up," he said.

Mr Justice Charleton intervened and asked Supt Taylor if he was saying An Garda Síochána tampered with his phone with a view to manipulating evidence or tampered with any of his phones.

Supt Taylor said he couldn’t answer the question and had been trying to establish what happened.

Asked by the judge if he believed gardaí interfered with his phone, Supt Taylor said he had no evidence of this and had requested permission to make inquiries with Viber, but this had not happened.

After a few more exchanges, Mr Justice Charleton said Supt Taylor was avoiding "every single one" of his questions.

"Well I’m only trying to give the rationale why I raised the concern," replied Supt Taylor.

"No. I appreciate that," the judge responded.

The tribunal is investigating claims made by Supt Taylor in a protected disclosure in September 2016 that he was ordered by then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan, and with the knowledge of then deputy commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, to spread a sexual abuse smear about penalty points whistle-blower Maurice McCabe.

The disclosure was made while Supt Taylor was suspended and under investigation for alleged unauthorised leaking of information to journalists.

The probe had its genesis in the alleged leaking of information about the taking into care by gardaí of a Roma child in Tallaght, but broadened out to include 12 "unauthorised disclosures" to journalists.

Supt Taylor has denied leaking information on the Roma matter.

Investigating gardaí recommended a prosecution, but the DPP decided not to prosecute as it did not believe it possible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Supt Taylor disclosed confidential information.

Mr O’Higgins also asked Mr Taylor if he wished to withdraw another allegation he had made in the judicial review affidavit.

This was that his treatment by investigating officers was "tactless, unnecessarily autocratic and oppressive".

Supt Taylor responded that he was placed in a cell when he attended Balbriggan Garda Station by appointment, and thought this "was pretty oppressive".

He said he wasn’t a flight risk and believed placing him in a cell was unnecessary.

Supt Taylor said he wasn’t suggesting he was mistreated physically, but he was stripped of his shoes, belt and his epaulettes.

Mr O’Higgins put it to him that he shook hands with officers when his questioning concluded.

Supt Taylor said he always conducted himself with civility and courtesy.

He said he was not impugning any of the investigators.

"I am just saying the event caused me a lot of pain, embarrassment and suffering."

The tribunal has heard that one of the investigation team was Det Supt Jim McGowan, the husband of Ms O’Sullivan.

Chief Supt Frank Clerkin, who led the probe, said he personally chose Det Super McGowan and that Ms O’Sullivan had not involvement in this.

Mr O’Higgins asked Supt Taylor if he recalled telling journalist Michael Clifford that Ms O’Sullivan’s husband was heading up the investigation.

Supt Taylor said he didn’t recall saying this.

Nor did he recall saying he was unhappy about Det Supt McGowan’s involvement.

Mr O’Higgins asked Supt Taylor how he reacted to Ms O’Sullivan succeeding Mr Callinan following his resignation as commissioner in March 2015.

"She was appointed commissioner and I accepted that," he replied.

Mr O’Higgins asked: "Did you tell a colleague you were gutted?"

Supt Taylor said he couldn’t say that he did, but added: "She wouldn’t have been my number one choice to be Garda commissioner."

The tribunal has previously heard Supt Taylor was transferred out of the Garda Press Office to the Garda traffic bureau, based at Dublin Castle, in June 2014.

Mr O’Higgins suggested this wasn’t a good move for his career and that Supt Taylor was unhappy about it.

Supt Taylor said his promotion and advancement was a matter for other people.

Mr O’Higgins asked if he recalled sending a text saying: "I'm currently in the dungeon in Dublin Castle, awaiting parole."

Supt Taylor said he couldn’t recall the text.

Earlier, Supt Taylor was asked by Mr O’Higgins about the reaction of journalists to being negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe.

But Supt Taylor said none of the eleven journalists be claims to have briefed showed any reaction to receiving the information.

Supt Taylor has claimed he told the journalists Sgt McCabe was motivated by revenge after being investigated over a child sexual assault complaint.

Sgt McCabe was cleared of the historic allegation in 2007.

Four of the eleven journalists have denied being negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe, while the remainder have not corroborated Supt Taylor’s claims, citing journalistic privilege.

Under questioning from Mr O’Higgins, Supt Taylor repeatedly said the journalists showed no reaction.

Mr O’Higgins went through each of the eleven journalists named by Supt Taylor.

He was first asked how RTÉ crime correspondent Paul Reynolds reacted.

Supt Taylor said: “He just heard what I was saying and he took it on board.”

Mr Reynolds has said he was not negatively briefed by anyone in relation to Sgt McCabe.

Asked how Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams reacted, Supt Taylor responded: “The same.”

Mr Williams has denied being negatively briefed about Sgt McCabe.

Asked how Irish Examiner journalist Juno McEnroe reacted, Supt Taylor again responded: “The same.”

Mr McEnroe has claimed journalistic privilege, but has previously written to the tribunal saying he had no information relevant to its terms of reference.

Supt Taylor gave similar responses when the names of other journalists were put to him.

"Journalists don't react when they're given information,” he said.

Supt Taylor said the journalists just heard what he was saying and how they processed that information was their prerogative.

It was put to him that surely someone on the list asked for more information, but Supt Taylor said the didn’t.

“They had a lot more sources and they could make their own inquiries,” he said.

Mr Justice Charleton put it to Supt Taylor that journalists ask questions.

“The question that might drip off their tongue is: 'What's in this David?'," the judge said.

Supt Taylor responded that the whole idea was to give the journalists information, to frame the message to them, and they could make their own inquiries.

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