Wednesday 13 December 2017

Tribunal to examine claims the abuse file arose from 'genuine mistakes'

Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe with his wife Lorraine. Photo: Barry Cronin
Garda Sgt Maurice McCabe with his wife Lorraine. Photo: Barry Cronin
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A counsellor whose erroneous report of a sexual abuse allegation led to Garda and Tusla files being created on Sgt Maurice McCabe has told the Disclosures Tribunal "a genuine mistake was made".

But the explanation has not been accepted by the Disclosures Tribunal, whose lead counsel said it needed to be investigated and could not be accepted at face value.

Diarmaid McGuinness SC outlined the sequence of events surrounding the incorrect allegation being filed in his opening statement to the tribunal.

He told how Laura Brophy from RIAN, a free service under the remit of the HSE, sent the report after a counselling session with a young woman known as Ms D in July 2013.

Ms D had previously alleged she had been sexually abused by Sgt McCabe while visiting his home during Christmas 1998 when she was six.

Eight years later a then 14-year-old Ms D made allegations against Sgt McCabe. They were fully investigated and the Director of Public Prosecutions concurred with a Garda assessment that Sgt McCabe had no case to answer.

However, after the 2013 counselling session Ms Brophy typed up a retrospective disclosure of abuse report. Ms D had told her the incident involved a game of hide and seek during which she alleged Sgt McCabe put his arms around her waist tickling her, pressed against her and made a "humping" motion.

"Through some dreadful alchemy in making an official typed report of the counselling session to refer on to child protection services, this became recorded as digital penetration, both anal and vaginal," said Mr McGuinness.

Ms Brophy informed the tribunal that when filling in the report she used a template involving another client, Ms Y, and mistakenly failed to remove the "description of abuse section" related to that client.

This form was sent to the HSE on August 9, 2013.

Mr McGuinness said it appears nothing was done until the following year as the file awaited allocation within what became Tusla.

However, a letter dated August 15 was sent from a HSE line manager, Keara McGlone, to Superintendent Noel Cunningham in Monaghan, referring to Ms D and seeking a meeting.

The superintendent was not on duty for extended periods around that time and apparently did not see the letter at the time. He never responded to it and Ms McGlone made no further contact with him.

In April 2014, Ms D made a complaint to the Garda ombudsman, claiming her allegations had not been properly investigated. The complaint was not upheld.

The same month a duty social worker in Cavan town, Laura Connolly, reviewed the Ms D file and noticed that intake records had not been completed on Sgt McCabe's children in 2006/7 or in 2013.

She was advised to open intake records by a social work team leader, Eileen Argue. These records included the incorrect allegation of digital penetration.

A Garda notification form was then completed by Ms Connolly, as was standard procedure, also containing the incorrect allegation.

But in May 2014, Ms D contacted Ms Brophy to say there was an error in the retrospective report sent to social service in Cavan which was the subsequent basis for the Garda notification.

Mr McGuinness said it appeared Ms Brophy took a number of steps to rectify the error, including forwarding a corrected report and requesting the return of the erroneous one.

It appears a corrected Garda notification was filed by the HSE in Monaghan, but was misfiled in Cavan.

After a review of the Ms D file took place in May 2015, Kay McLoughlin, a social work team leader, drafted a letter to Sgt McCabe asking him for a meeting to respond to the allegations. It was the first he had heard of the incorrect digital penetration allegation and he was "astonished". Mr McGuinness said there were two possible views of what had occurred.

One was that gardaí and State agencies "deliberately sought to blacken the character of Sgt McCabe" and the other was that the sequence of events which unfolded "was the product of genuine errors".

Irish Independent

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