Monday 22 October 2018

Tribunal dismisses claims of garda whistleblower and his partner as 'nonsense'

Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms arrive at the tribunal in September. Photo: Collins Photos
Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms arrive at the tribunal in September. Photo: Collins Photos
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The Disclosures Tribunal has flatly rejected allegations made by Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marisa Simms - describing some parts of their story as "nonsense".

The couple alleged Ms Simms was compelled by gardaí to make a statement against him which led to a Tusla referral.

The Donegal-based garda alleged he was the victim of a five-year intimidation campaign after arresting a fellow officer for drink driving in Athlone in 2009 and that senior gardaí intervened in his family life by directing Tusla to become involved.

However, in an interim report released last night, tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said: "All of the allegations of Gda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms examined by the tribunal are entirely without any validity."

The report was utterly damning of the version of events put forward by Gda Harrison and Ms Simms and exonerated Tusla officials and members of An Garda Síochána who had been accused of wrongdoing.

The tribunal heard Ms Simms gave a statement at Letterkenny Garda station in October 2013 about an argument she had with Gda Harrison in front of their children during which she claimed he had threatened her. She later withdrew this statement.

The following February the couple were visited by a Tusla social worker.

The couple claimed Ms Simms never had a desire to go to the garda station and was induced to go there through pressure and deception.

They alleged that while she was there an inspector and a sergeant distorted her words or put words in her mouth.

"All of this was done, so they assert, for the purpose of undermining their family life. This is nonsense," Mr Justice Charleton found.

Read More: Charleton pulls no punches with excoriating report

He said it was clear from the evidence that family members had considered Ms Simms to be in peril and told gardaí that Gda Harrison had a serious drink problem and as a consequence was capable of violence.

The judge also said the allegations against two diligent gardaí were "exploded" by text messages recovered from Ms Simms's phone.

Mr Justice Charleton said the couple had claimed to have been the victims of a "malicious procession" of events. "That is not so," the judge found.

"There is another side to this. The allegations which they made must have taken a considerable toll on several of the multiple persons accused by them of very serious misconduct. "It is appropriate to exonerate everyone in social services and in policing accused by them of discreditable misconduct."

Mr Justice Charleton continued: "It was claimed by Gda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms that there was nothing in that statement to gardaí of Marisa Simms which required the intervention of social services. The terms of the Children First guidelines, however, required gardaí to involve the Health Service Executive, later called Tusla, when fulfilling the relevant function. The relevant fundamental obligation was to protect children."

The judge said Tusla was an independent statutory agency and not under the control of gardaí in Donegal and nor influenced by Garda Headquarters.

He said the integrity of Tusla staff was "incorrectly undermined by these widely-publicised allegations". "Yet, during the hearings, these very serious allegations by Gda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms simply collapsed," he said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News