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Monday 23 April 2018

Garda Inspector denies forcing witness to make statement against whistleblower partner

Garda Keith Harrison and partner Marisa Simms arrive at the tribunal last week. Photo: Collins
Garda Keith Harrison and partner Marisa Simms arrive at the tribunal last week. Photo: Collins

Gerard Cunningham

A garda inspector has denied forcing a witness to make a statement against her partner, garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, at the Charleton tribunal.

Inspector Goretti Sheridan faced cross-examination from Hugh Hartnett SC, representing Garda Harrison's partner Marisa Simms.

On October 6, 2013, Ms Simms made a lengthy statement in Letterkenny garda station to Inspector Sheridan and Sergeant Brigid McGowan.

In the statement, Ms Simms outlined her relationship with Garda Harrison.

"If Marisa Simms wants to make a statement she could make a statement," Inspector Sheridan said. "I wouldn't force Marisa Simms or anybody else to make a statement."

Mr Hartnett said the inspector "set out as best you could to get a statement using the wiles of an investigating officer".

Inspector Sheridan said her job was "to talk to her and ask if she wants to make a statement".

"I'm not going to force her to sit down and make a statement," said Insp Sheridan.

Insp Sheridan said that "very, very serious allegations" had been made about Garda Harrison by third parties - Ms Simms' mother, sister, uncle and a cousin - who had already come forward to gardaí.

Mr Hartnett said that Ms Simms was "exhausted" and "dead tired" at the end of the statement, which was made over an eight-hour period.

Mr Harnett said this was an "exceptional length of time" to take a statement.

"Even the best of Donegal seanachaís would find it difficult to talk in a stream for eight hours or more," Mr Hartnett said, referring to traditional storytellers.

Insp Sheridan said that statements in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse or rape often took a long time.

She said that Ms Simms was "alert and knew what she was doing".

Inspector Sheridan said that there had been a general conversation for two or three hours with Ms Simms, following which she made the statement.

Inspector Sheridan said her "key concern" was the welfare of Ms Simms' children.

On January 11, 2014, Ms Simms called to Letterkenny garda station and withdrew her statement.

The tribunal continues.

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