Charleton tribunal: ‘No malice’ in complaint about whistleblower

Chief Supt McGinn says her interpretation of Act may have been wrong but Gsoc referral made in good faith

Chief Supt Terry McGinn: “I have absolutely no malice to Garda Harrison,” she told the tribunal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins.

Chief Supt Terry McGinn: “I have absolutely no malice to Garda Harrison,” she told the tribunal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins.

 

A senior garda who referred a whistleblower to the force’s watchdog over a domestic dispute complaint has denied having malice towards the officer.

Chief Supt Terry McGinn said she was satisfied the steps she took regarding the case of Garda Keith Harrison were “appropriate” and “measured”.

The Charleton tribunal has heard that in October 2013, Marissa Simms, the partner of Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison, made a statement to gardaí alleging that Garda Harrison had said he would “burn her” and “bury her”.

Ms Simms later withdrew the statement but not before it was referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc), a move Garda Harrison believes was motivated by malice towards him.

Mark Harty SC, for Garda Harrison, said senior officers in Donegal were interpreting the 2005 Garda Síochána Act “beyond breaking point” at a conference where it was decided to refer Ms Simms’ statement to Gsoc. The matter was passed on to Gsoc under section 102 of the Act, which allows for a referral where a garda has caused death or serious harm to another person.

Serious harm

Mr Harty said that Chief Supt McGinn regarded a threat of future harm as serious harm, and in evidence earlier, Supt Eugene McGovern said that psychological harm on receiving a threat was grounds to refer the matter to Gsoc.

Chief Supt McGinn said that at the meeting on October 8th, 2013, those present also discussed the issue of psychological harm to Ms Simms’ children. The statement by Ms Simms was also referred to the HSE.

Mr Harty said that if Chief Supt McGinn was acting in good faith, she would have made entries in the officer’s journal about the decisions made in the case. The witness said there were no ulterior motives.

Chief Supt McGinn said her interpretation of the Act may have been wrong, but the referral to Gsoc was made in good faith.

Counsel put it to the witness that she would have done more if she was concerned about the safety of Ms Simms and her children.

“I’m happy that the decisions I made were the right decisions at the time,” she replied.

Out of division

Mr Harty said Chief Supt McGinn “didn’t give a fig” about Ms Simms, but only wanted to get Garda Harrison out of her division.

“I have absolutely no malice to Garda Harrison. He is back working in my division for the past few months and I have shown no malice to him whatsoever.”

The tribunal is looking into whether Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was the target of a smear campaign on the direction of senior Garda management. The Garda Harrison allegation is that there were inappropriate contacts between Tusla and the Garda Síochána in relation to matters to do with Garda Harrison and Ms Simms. He has said these mirrored in some regards what allegedly happened with Sgt McCabe.