Garda Chief Superintendent denies targeting of Sergeant

Contents of letter written on behalf of Sergeant were effectively dictated by him, tribunal told

A Garda Chief Superintendent has denied deliberately targeting, or setting out to discredit, a former sergeant whose allegations are being examined by a tribunal.

Chief Supt Mark Curran, who was a Superintendent serving in Coolock, Co Dublin, in 2006, denied at the Disclosures Tribunal that he had any animus towards Sgt William (Liam) Hughes.

Had he deliberately targeted Sgt Hughes, Kate Egan, BL, for An Garda Síochána, asked Mr Curran.

“Never, ever,” said Mr Curran. “Ever.”

Asked earlier by Michael Lynn, SC, counsel for Sgt Hughes, whether what was described as a four year delay in dealing with Sgt Hughes’ work-related stress, and other matters raised by him, amounted to a deliberate targeting of him, Mr Curran denied the contention.

“I reject that entirely,” he said.

The tribunal is examining a protected disclosure made by Sgt Hughes into what he asserts was a “systems failure” by the gardaí­ in relation to the murder, in November 2006, of Baiba Saulite, and other matters that preceded her death, including attacks and intimidation of her and her solicitor, John Hennessy. These allegations are denied by An Garda Síochána.

Sgt Hughes and a colleague, Garda Declan Nyhan, were involved in a family law case concerning Ms Saulite and her former husband, known by order of tribunal only as Mr A, and in several incidents believed related to that case.

Five days before her murder, Ms Saulite gave Sgt Hughes a hand-written victim impact statement in which she spoke of her fears for her safety at the hands of Mr A. However, Sgt Hughes says he did not read the statement, but put it in his station locker where it remained until after she was shot dead at her home in Swords.

“Liam Hughes is someone I knew over many years,” Mr Curran told Ms Egan.

He said he had had many conversations with him and regarded him as a good colleague whom he wanted to help.

Counsel for the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness, SC, asked Mr Curran about a letter he wrote in April 2007 to his then Chief Superintendent, Gerard Phillips, explaining Sgt Hughes’ concerns. The letter, which derived from a conversation with Sgt Hughes the day before, did not contain the phrase “systems failure”.

Mr Curran said he had read the letter over to Sgt Hughes before sending it and he regarded Sgt Hughes as having had “editorial control” over its contents.

Mr Curran said that after Ms Sauilte’s murder, Sgt Hughes had not complained to him about alleged bullying and intimidation from colleagues. Sgt Hughes had told him he distrusted senior gardaí­ — not him, only “but people above me”, said Mr Curran.

Mr Lynn said Sgt Hughes recalls distinctly that he mentioned “systems failures” to Mr Curran at the April 2007 meeting that resulted in the letter. Mr Curran said he does not recall Sgt Hughes using the phrase “systems failure” before late 2007 or early 2008.

The delay in dealing with Sgt Hughes’ work-related stress issues was protracted and was unfortunate but the matter was in the hands of the Chief Medical Officer, said Mr Curran.

“This was a targeted discrediting of him,” said Mr Lynn, “by failing to carry out the necessary adjudication.”

“I reject that entirely,” said Mr Curran.

The tribunal will resume on Thursday.