Thursday 17 October 2019

Woman angry file never sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, detective's trial told

Garda Catherine McGowan
Garda Catherine McGowan

By Declan Brennan

An alleged victim of clerical sexual abuse has told a trial of a detective charged with forgery that she was angry when she found out that a file on her case had never been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Wicklow detective Garda Catherine McGowan (48), who is based at Bray Garda Station, has pleaded not guilty to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda Station and at Harcourt Street Garda Station between June 21 and 22, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), dated January 14, 2009.

The woman testified that the accused had previously informed her that the DPP had received the file and was not going to prosecute the case.

The investigation of Gda McGowan’s handling of the case was prompted by the publication of the Murphy Report which investigated clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin area. The priest in Gda McGowan’s case was one of the clerics mentioned in the report.

On day two of the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court a 44-year-old woman from Co. Wicklow testified that in the 1980s she was the victim of a sexual abuse by a local curate from the age of 16.

In 2005 she met with Detective Garda Joanne Hennessy to discuss her allegations. In February 2006 she met the detective again and said she wasn't ready to make a formal complaint to gardai. She made a statement to this effect and signed it.

The following year she said she decided she was prepared to go ahead with a garda investigation.

She contacted Det Gda Hennessy who told her she had been moved to a Galway station. The detective arranged for Gda McGowan to contact the woman.

The woman met the second detective in March 2007. She told the court: “The first thing I said was how much I was trusting her with this”.

She said that the only contact after this was through text messages and telephone calls up to September 2009 when she sent a text to the detective asking for an update.

She said Gda McGowan rang her back on her mobile and told her that the DPP had said there would be no prosecution against her alleged abuser. She said she became very upset at this news.

“After that I had a melt down. I couldn’t believe it. I really thought it would go somewhere. I went back to counselling. I had suicidal thoughts,” she testified.

She said as time went by she resolved to move on. In 2011 she was contacted by Sergeant Diane Swift who was part of a special task force set up in the aftermath of the Murphy Report by the garda commissioner to investigate how sex abuse cases were handled by the church and state authorities.

She said that she came to learn that the file on her allegations had not been sent to the DPP.

She told Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, that she was upset, disappointed and angry and agreed she felt that she hadn't received due process. She agreed that she didn't think very highly of the accused at this point.

The court heard that the file was finally sent for consideration to the DPP in the summer of 2011 and that the DPP directed no prosecution of her allegations.

She agreed with Mr Marrinan that Gda McGowan was aware that the complainant had a solicitor and was pursuing civil action against the curate, and that she was engaging with the Murphy Commission.

The trial, which is scheduled to last two weeks, continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and jury of six men and six women

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