Garda goes on trial accused of forging letter from the DPP

Catherine McGowan

By Conor Gallagher

A WICKLOW detective has gone on trial accused of forging a letter from the DPP in relation to the investigation of a priest accused of sexual abuse.

Det Gda Catherine McGowan (48), based in Bray, has pleaded not guilty to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station and two of using a false instrument there 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 DPP dated January 14, 2009.

In his opening speech at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, prosecuting counsel Alex Owens said Gda McGowan had forged the letter to "hoodwink" gardai who were reviewing whether she had acted properly in investigating allegations of abuse of a teenage girl by a priest.

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.

Counsel said the jury will hear evidence of a copy of a letter, supposedly from the DPP, which directed that a prosecution of the priest would be "impossible".


"This document is not genuine, it is a bogus document," Mr Owens said.

Sgt Diane Swift told the jury a special task force was set up in the aftermath of the Murphy Report. She said the unit investigated allegations in relation to 46 priests named in the report and she was assigned one priest who had 500 documents relating to allegations against him.

Sgt Swift said she contacted one of the alleged victims who said she was sexually abused by the priest for three years from when she was 16.

Sgt Swift requested the investigative file from the case. Gda McGowan said she would get them to her and after several delays she received the documentation.

Sgt Swift said she received statements relating to the abuse case and a photocopy of a letter purporting to be from the office of the DPP. The letter was signed by a person with the title of "professional officer".

Sgt Swift put this and the other documents in a lock-up before passing them on to the exhibits officer in the case.

The trial continues before Judge Mary Ellen Ring and jury of six men and six women.