Suggestion garda accused of forgery could be ‘looked after’ denied

Inquiry into garda’s handling of sex abuse allegation prompted by Murphy report

The supervisor of a garda accused of forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions has denied he told her if she "admitted wrongdoing" she would be "looked after".

Wicklow Det Garda Catherine McGowan (48), based at Bray Garda station, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of forgery on January 15th, 2009, at Bray Garda station, and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda station and at Harcourt Street Garda station between June 21st and 22nd, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), dated January 14th, 2009.

The investigation of Garda McGowan’s handling of the case was prompted by publication of the Murphy report, which investigated clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin area. The priest in Garda McGowan’s case was one of the clerics mentioned in the report.

The letter read: “Dear Sir, I [illegible] to yours. In [illegible] the statement of the complainant...could not possibly form the basis of a prosecution given that the complainant’s allegation of rape is only conjecture.”

Det Insp Frank Keenaghan said he first became aware Det Garda McGowan had been conducting an investigation into the priest in July 2011.

The jury previously heard a woman first made a complaint of clerical sexual abuse in 2006 to another garda, which she later withdrew.

Formal complaint

In 2007 she returned to the station to make a statement and made a formal complaint to Det Garda McGowan, as the other garda had been transferred to a different station.

Det Insp Keenaghan refused to accept a suggestion from Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, that he said to Det Garda McGowan, on discovering the letter was potentially forged, that if she admitted wrongdoing she would be “looked after”.

He accepted a suggestion from counsel that it was “a politically sensitive case”.

He agreed with counsel that this was the first time such an alleged incident had occurred at Bray Garda station, but claimed he had not initially accused Det Garda McGowan of forgery.

When Mr Marrinan put it to Det Insp Keenaghan that his client was left feeling “judged, condemned and isolated”, the witness replied: “Not by me”.

Det Insp Keenaghan agreed with Alex Owen SC, prosecuting, in re-examination, that he never said to the accused, “Shit rolls downwards and you will be the fall guy”, as had been suggested by the defence team.

He said he doesn’t use that phrase, so he couldn’t imagine saying it to her.

Det Insp Keenaghan told Mr Marrinan the review of clerical abuse cases assigned to Bray Garda station was handled by the station’s inspector, and as such Det Garda McGowan would have reported to this man rather than himself.

He again confirmed he did not know the priest was being investigated between 2006 and 2011.

Anomalies in letter

Det Insp Keenaghan said when he was later contacted by an officer from the DPP and informed there were anomalies in the alleged forged letter, he saw an immediate need to reinvestigate the complaint from this woman and get a file back to the DPP as quickly as possible.

He said he had no recollection of a conversation with the accused about a Sunday Independent newspaper interview with the alleged victim in 2009 and again confirmed he first became aware of the investigation into the woman’s allegation in 2011.

Det Insp Keenaghan agreed he later included in a report that Det Garda McGowan had not referred to her investigation of this priest in a report she herself compiled in 2006, but accepted she did not actually start investigating the man until 2007.

The witness said that was a mistake in his report. “I am incorrect in my assertion there, ” he said, accepting his report would not have been in her “best interest”.

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