Monday 18 February 2019

'He's absolutely devastated' - McCabe expected to sue after Tusla 'copy and paste error' lead to circulation of false child rape allegations

  • Allegations of child rape by digital penetration
  • TUSLA admitted to 'clerical error' in 2014
  • Senior members of gardaí aware of allegation
  • Maurice McCabe first heard of allegations last year
  • His family have been devastated - solicitor for Mr McCabe
  • Tusla 'in process ' of apologising

Whistleblower Maurice McCabe. Photo: Tom Burke
Whistleblower Maurice McCabe. Photo: Tom Burke

Garda Whistleblower Maurice McCabe looks set to sue the state following an RTE PrimeTime report which revealed details of a litany of errors which resulted in serious allegations against him.

Speaking to Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio One Mr McCabe's solicitor Sean Costello said Mr McCabe was "absolutely devastated".

Last night PrimeTime revealed that a file containing the false allegation of child sex abuse was sent by the State child and family agency to gardaí and was widely circulated in 2013, the programme reported. 

The father was alleged to have abused a young girl, with the detail that it was digital penetration, both vaginal and anal.

Senior members of the force were aware of the allegation but no attempt was made to put the allegations to Mr McCabe.

Tusla admitted to the "clerical error" in 2014.

Today Tusla has released a statement saying it is the process of issuing a full apology to the person involved.

The statement reads:

"Taking an overall view of this situation, however, it is clear to us that mistakes have been made. On this basis, we have commenced an internal review and will cooperate fully with any Commission of Inquiry if requested.

"Although we cannot comment on the details of this individual case, we can confirm that we are in the process of apologising fully to the individual involved.

"It is important to note that when we receive allegations from a child – or from an adult reflecting on when they were a child – that we are obliged to carry out a complete assessment. We also accept that because of the nature and complexity of these situations, the systems and processes involved in doing this need to be extremely robust. In this case, it appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public."

The RTE report was based on a document outlining the sequence of errors made by Tusla in the investigation, which was compiled by the Chief State Solicitor’s Office for the O’Higgins Report last year.

The report relates how Sergeant Maurice McCabe made a complaint about a colleague in January 2006. This complaint led to the colleague being disciplined.

That September, the colleague made a complaint about Maurice McCabe on behalf of his daughter.

Read more: TUSLA whistleblower controversy: Timeline of the important events

The girl subsequently made a complaint about Maurice McCabe in which she alleged the garda sergeant had tickled and behaved inappropriately towards her while she played hide and seek with his children a decade earlier.

The allegation was investigated by gardaí and a file sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions in which gardaí said there was no ground for prosecution. The DPP agreed, making the observation that it was doubtful whether the allegations made would constitute an offence in the first place.

In August 2013, when Sgt McCabe’s whistleblowing was dominating news headlines, the allegations reared their head again, but were on a more serious scale.

During this time, a counsellor notified Tusla that a client she had been counselling had disclosed to her that she had been sexually abused in childhood.

According to the counsellor’s report, the complaint alleged digital penetration.

The mistaken allegation involving the digital penetration was wrongly reported by Tusla as coming from the same woman who had made the previous allegation against Sgt McCabe in 2006.

Days after receiving the report, a social worker contacted a garda involved in the original investigation.

However, it is not known if they ever met to discuss the case further.

The report alleges that a formal garda notification outlining details of the new " allegation " was not sent to the superintendent of the district involved until May 2, around eight months later.

Read more: Now TUSLA dragged into Maurice McCabe 'sex crimes' smear controversy

The report also outlined that files were opened on the garda sergeant’s four children in April 2014 – each file containing the allegation their father had abused a young child.

On May 14 2014, the counsellor contacted Tusla to say she had made an administrative error in her report to them.

An internal Tusla email, which related to the counsellor’s original referral, stated: “The line that this involved digital penetration, both vaginal and anal, is an error and should not be in the referral.

“It is in fact a line from another referral on another client that has been pasted in in error. The counsellor has apologised and is sending us an amended report ASAP”

Within minutes of this report being received, a social worker recommended the Garda notification on Maurice McCabe  be amended immediately, and updated with this information.

An amended Garda notification was sent to the relevant garda superintendent, stating the counsellor’s initital report contained an “administrative error”. This notice stated that both parties were fully clothed at the time of the alleged offence and the girl had alleged inappropriate contact.

However, it appears another error was made by Tusla.

The ‘Prime Time’ programme related how on December 29 2015 a child protection social worker wrote to Maurice McCabe informing him an investigation was taking place into allegations he had sexually abused a child, allegedly involving digital penetration.

This was the first time the garda had heard about the allegation, the report stated.

In a letter from his solicitor to the social worker, Sgt McCabe denied the allegations in their entirety.

He also set out the previous circumstances of when the original allegation was made in 2006, and how the DPP had directed no prosecution and observed that it was doubtful whether the allegation constituted an offence in the first place.

In June 2016, a social worker from Tusla responded.

She said the agency was obliged to investigate the allegations – but said a mistake had been made in previous correspondence.

“I can confirm to you that no allegation of digital penetration has been made in relation to your client,” the social worker said.

Sgt McCabe requested of Tusla that all copies of records made on and his family be released to him.

It is also understood that the woman who made the 2006 allegations told Tusla in August she does not want to pursue the matter any further.

On January 27, Tusla wrote to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone.

The letter stated: “I regret the management of this case did not meet the high standard set for the service and it is the intention to issue a full formal apology to Mr McCabe for the failings.”

Separately, fresh claims emerged last night that Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan met gardaí in June 2014 to discuss the allegations that had been brought forward by the counsellor.

However, senior Garda sources have denied that this is the case.

The same sources hit back at Tusla, saying the agency was at fault for allowing the unsubstantiated allegation to remain on its database until recently.

Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald  declined to comment, saying it was a matter for Tusla.

Speaking this morning Mr McCabe's solicitor, Sean Costello, said on a human level Mr McCabe was "absolutely devastated".

When asked how the family felt in relation to four files being opened on Mr McCabe's children he said:

"As any parent, aunt, uncle, whoever sees these thing written about Maurice McCabe, that he posed a potential risk is just absolutely devastating."

"He has gone through a lot through so many years," he added.

He said he is considering his options but answered yes when asked if Mr McCabe was planning to sue.

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