Saturday 23 June 2018

Whistleblower used Pulse to look up his partner's details '30 times', tribunal told

Keith Harrison. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/
Keith Harrison. Photo: Eamonn Farrell/

Gerard Cunningham

A garda whistleblower used the Pulse system more than 30 times to look up his partner's details after an anonymous letter led to a HSE inquiry into the welfare of her children, the Charleton tribunal has heard.

Garda Keith Harrison used the Garda computer system to check on Marisa Simms in the wake of the allegations in early 2012. In its current module, the tribunal is looking at contacts between gardaí and Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, in relation to Gda Harrison.

Retired chief superintendent James Sheridan said that after he received reports of "a multiplicity of checks" he issued a directive on data protection to all officers in the region, and met with Gda Harrison. Mr Sheridan said Gda Harrison assured him the checks would stop. Senior counsel Mark Harty, for Gda Harrison, said the figure of "over 30" Pulse checks was inaccurate, and at the time in question there were 22 checks, dating from 2007.

He said Gda Harrison made the majority of checks to see who else was making entries relating to Ms Simms, and "he believed at the time that they were under surveillance, both he and Ms Simms".

Asked by the chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, if Gda Harrison was under surveillance, Mr Sheridan replied: "Absolutely not."

Mr Sheridan said that in March 2011, he was informed of an incident in Churchill involving Gda Harrison's partner and her ex-husband, as a result of which he met with Gda Harrison.

Gda Harrison had travelled to Churchill in a Garda car while off-duty, because of the incident. Gda Harrison's partner was a sister of Martin McDermott, who was later convicted of the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin following a high-speed car chase.

Gda Harrison had not previously informed his superiors of this connection to the man facing charges relating to the homicide of a local garda.

Mr Sheridan said that while Gda Harrison's partner was not in any way responsible for the actions of her brother, he had to "manage the circumstances", and arranged to have Gda Harrison transferred away from Buncrana to Donegal town.

Mr Sheridan said he rejected utterly assertions by Gda Harrison relating to the meeting. "To say that I was angry or treated him in any way disrespectfully is a gross misrepresentation of how that meeting was conducted," Mr Sheridan said.

Meanwhile, retired Garda Sergeant Daniel Devlin told the tribunal the death of Gda McLoughlin had "a devastating effect" on officers in Buncrana, Co Donegal. Mr Devlin said he learned in March 2011 about the connection between McDermott and Gda Harrison.

"It was only a few weeks before the trial. Emotions in the unit were a bit taut at that time," Mr Devlin said. Mr Devlin said that Gda Harrison made an address to gardaí at the station after the connection emerged.

"He in a way maybe was apologising for not disclosing it earlier," Mr Devlin said. Mr Devlin said he was not aware of Gda Harrison being victimised in any way. The tribunal resumes today.

Irish Independent

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