‘Chaos theory’ blamed at tribunal for errors

Series of ‘unfortunate events’ led to false allegation circulating against Maurice McCabe, lawyers claim


“A series of most unfortunate events” led to the circulation of a false rape allegation against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe in 2013, lawyers for the Garda commissioner have told the Charleton tribunal.

The tribunal is hearing closing submissions from legal teams in relation to its first module that heard evidence in July 2017.

That module set out to investigate the creation, distribution and use by the child and family agency Túsla of a file containing false allegations of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe sent to gardaí in 2013, and whether these false allegations and the file were knowingly used by senior Garda officers to discredit Sgt McCabe.

A “cut and paste error” led to a more serious allegation being added to a report from Miss D after she sought counselling in 2013. Miss D had initially made a complaint against Sgt McCabe in 2006.

After a Garda investigation the DPP decided that the allegation did not constitute an offence.

Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton said on Tuesday morning a GSOC review of the original Garda investigation had concluded it was a thorough inquiry. He said the investigation, headed by Garda Superintendent (then Inspector) Noel Cunningham “would be a very good example for teaching purposes of how to conduct an investigation of this kind.”

Micheál P O’Higgins SC, counsel for the Garda commissioner, said HSE officials had acknowledged the errors made in 2013 were theirs.

“This was a series of most unfortunate errors,” Mr O’Higgins said. He said the errors were not Garda errors, and Garda officers took reasonable steps to correct the errors once discovered.

“Perhaps chaos theory was ruling, rather than any conspiracy,” Mr O’Higgins said.

The barrister said there was “no evidence the false accusations were knowingly used by members of the Garda to discredit Sgt McCabe in any way”.

In appointing Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne and Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn to look into policing issues in the Cavan Monaghan division, the force made an appropriate and reasonable attempt to address Sgt McCabe’s complaints, he said.

Paul Anthony McDermott SC, on behalf of Túsla, said there was no evidence of any conspiracy or deliberate plan to cause harm to Sgt McCabe.

Mr McDermott said the agency wanted to apologise to those affected by the sequence of errors, and to apologise again in public to Sgt McCabe and his family. He said the agency was revising how it dealt with historic allegations.

Michael Cush SC, for the HSE, said there was “a terrible error”, and when it was discovered HSE employees took steps to recover copies of the report which had been sent out, but unknown to them, a report has also been forwarded to the Garda.