Charleton Tribunal rejects all complaints by Garda Keith Harrison

With partner Marissa Simms, Harrison claimed vendetta by Garda and Tusla

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, which is chaired by Judge Peter Charleton. Photograph:  Stephen Collins/Collins Photo Garda  Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms: tribunal has dismissed their whistleblowing claims. Photograph: Stephen Collins

Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, which is chaired by Judge Peter Charleton. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins Photo Garda Keith Harrison with his partner Marissa Simms: tribunal has dismissed their whistleblowing claims. Photograph: Stephen Collins

 

Allegations of serious misconduct against the Garda and staff at child and family agency Tusla made by Garda whistleblower Keith Harrison and his partner, Marissa Simms, have all been rejected by the Charleton Tribunal.

In a damning report, Mr Justice Peter Charleton has said their allegations were not only without foundation but had been damaging and caused great distress and upset. He praised those Garda members and social workers who had been wrongly accused.

And setting out a long list of Garda Harrison’s issues with performing his duties, Mr Justice Charleton said it needed to be easier to “dispense with” Garda members unsuited to police work.

Garda Harrison claimed there was a five-year Garda vendetta against him involving local gardaí and Garda Headquarters because he had arrested a colleague on suspicion of drink-driving in Athlone eight years ago.

The couple had claimed the Garda in Donegal had coerced her, Ms Simms, into giving statements of complaint in October 2013, detailing allegations of abuse at the hands of her partner.

And they further claimed the Garda had ensured Tusla interfered in their family home, including investigating the parenting and safety of Ms Simms’s children, who the tribunal was told Garda Harrison treated as his own.

The complaint the couple said was coerced from Ms Simms was made after a fight between her and Garda Harrison in their home in 2013 while the children were present.

No coercion

The tribunal found her complaint to the Garda, though later withdrawn by her, was not coerced. And it also found the allegations in the complaint – including a “threat to burn” her – had also been made by Ms Simms in texts to Garda Harrison long before their relationship became a Garda matter.

The tribunal concluded not only could the Garda have had no influence over those texts, the force also had no influence over Tusla. And to suggest it did was an insult and hurtful to those who worked for both.

Staff at Tusla had been forced to take to the witness box at the tribunal to deny they had been “leaned on” by Donegal gardaí to investigate the family.

Tusla workers visited the home of Ms Simms and Garda Harrison in 2014, concluding there was no threat to the children and closing the file.

“All of the allegations of Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms examined by the tribunal are entirely without any validity,” the tribunal’s report on their allegations states.

The report, published on Thursday night, is separate to the substantive inquiries the tribunal is carrying out into the Garda’s dealings with – and actions of – two other whistleblowers, Sgt Maurice McCabe and Supt David Taylor.

Mr Justice Charleton also said an “astonishing aspect” of Garda Harrison’s conduct and allegations had been that he believed he was entitled to make complaints about behaviour he was challenged on by his senior officers.

Mr Justice Charleton set out a large list of wrongdoing on the part of Garda Harrison that he objected to being tackled on by his superiors. This included using the Garda’s Pulse database to check on his girlfriend, driving a car with false insurance and generally failing to adhere to discipline.

“They have claimed to have been the victims of a malicious procession of events. That is not so,” Mr Justice Charleton said of the couple’s unfounded allegations. “It is appropriate here to exonerate everyone in social services and in policing accused by them of discreditable conduct.

“Those serving in the gardaí in Donegal demonstrated seriousness and genuine concern in the context of domestic violence allegations.

Command structure

“There was no breakdown in the Garda command structure. Instead, allegations were treated seriously, properly reported up the line and diligently pursued.

“There was no shortage of police officers well capable of leadership and the application of intelligence to their task.

“The witnesses from Tusla stood out as paying proper regard to independence, professional standards and pride.”

Meanwhile, gardaí have confirmed that acting Garda Commissioner Dónall Ó Cualáin had been approached by someone from within the organisation expressing concerns with regard to the Garda Disclosures Tribunal Co-ordination Office. The office is responsible for co-ordinating documentation for the inquiry. “Earlier this week the acting Garda Commissioner wrote to the Minister for Justice under section 41 to bring to his attention an internal concern raised with [him],” the press office said in a statement.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, issued a statement noting the tribunal’s exoneration of social work staff and the finding that they had acted in line with Children First and procedures.

“The report also references the professional standards of Tusla witnesses and the independence of Tusla as a statutory agency,” it said.