Garda did not tell two girls alleging assault to tell truth, court hears

Interviewer says she has no excuse for oversight in case where childcare worker accused

A 29-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexually assaulting four girls at a Leinster creche on dates between February 2015 and December 2016. File photograph: Collins Courts

A 29-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexually assaulting four girls at a Leinster creche on dates between February 2015 and December 2016. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

A garda who interviewed two of the alleged sexual assault victims of a childcare worker should have told them it was important to tell the truth, his trial has heard.

Garda Ciara Holmes told defence barrister, Seán Guerin SC, that it was an “oversight” on her part not to tell the girls to tell the truth when she was interviewing them in January 2017.

“I’ve no excuse for it,” Garda Holmes told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court trial on Monday. “It’s something that I normally do and I didn’t do it on these two occasions.”

When Mr Guerin put it to the garda that this was in breach of the guidelines surrounding child interviews, Garda Holmes replied that it was, “not in line with the guidelines”.

The 29-year-old man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainants, has pleaded not guilty to 23 counts of sexually assaulting the four girls at a Leinster creche on dates between February 2015 and December 2016.

The trial has been played videos of the interviews the first two complainants had with specialist gardaí in January 2017, one month after the allegations first came to light.

The first complainant told gardaí the man touched her “privates” in a number of locations in the creche and on the creche bus and that she di d not like it.

The second complainant alleges the man licked her “privates” in the creche bathroom and in a classroom.

Declined

Garda Louise Curtin gave evidence on Monday in relation to the second complainant, whom the court has heard initially declined to be interviewed by gardaí before participating in a recorded interview.

Garda Curtin told Mr Guerin that she was not sure if the girl, who was then aged six, had been told she did not have to speak with gardaí. She agreed she had not made a note of such a conversation with the child.

The child told gardaí: “It’s scary having to talk to the gardaí,” the court heard. She was then asked if it would be okay for gardaí to talk to her the next day.

“You didn’t tell her you don’t have to talk at all,” Mr Guerin said.

Garda Curtin replied that she could not say if she did or not. “That is something that as a specialist interviewer I would regularly say to persons,” she said.

The court heard that the girl told the gardaí she did not understand the truth. At the start of the recorded interview with Garda Holmes in January 2017, the girl also said: “I’m going to have to keep coming here.”

Garda Curtin agreed with Mr Guerin that this appeared to be a “fear” the child had.

Mr Guerin asked the garda if it concerned her that the girl “thought she had to speak with the guards, having declined to speak at the first interview, thought she was in trouble and said she didn’t understand the truth”.

Garda Curtin replied that this was “a six-year-old child speaking with two members of An Garda Síochána”. She said she was in regular contact with the girl’s mother, who told her she had reassured the child. She said she believed the child was “okay” to be video interviewed on the day in question.

The trial continues before Judge Elma Sheahan and a jury of seven men and five women.