Garda whistleblower ‘very distressed’ at child sex abuse claim interview

Officer investigating Maurice McCabe acknowledges difficulty of disproving allegations

Garda whistleblower: Sgt Maurice McCabe and his wife, Lorraine, at Dublin Castle for the Disclosures Tribunal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Garda whistleblower: Sgt Maurice McCabe and his wife, Lorraine, at Dublin Castle for the Disclosures Tribunal. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

The Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was very distressed when he was interviewed about an allegation of child sexual abuse made by the daughter of a colleague, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

Supt Noel Cunningham said he was ordered to investigate the claim in 2007 despite wanting someone else to do it, as he knew Sgt McCabe and the girl’s father.

At the tribunal he agreed with Michael McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, that allegations of child sexual abuse can be impossible to disprove.

Mr McDowell said it was clearly a deeply distressing allegation for his client, especially as Sgt McCabe knew he was innocent. Supt Cunningham said that when he interviewed him the sergeant was very distressed.

The tribunal heard that Supt Cunningham was away from his office when the response came back from the director of public prosecutions that no charges should be brought. The decision came through the Co Cavan state solicitor, Rory Hayden. The DPP’s office said that even if the events alleged had occurred, which was disputed, they would not have constituted assault.

When he returned to his office and opened the letter, Supt Cunningham said, he immediately contacted the complainant’s family and went to see them. As soon as he left their home he pulled in and called Sgt McCabe, but the call was not answered.

AGSI representative

It was some time before he got to meet Sgt McCabe, the witness said, and when they eventually met the sergeant was accompanied by a representative from the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors.

Mr McDowell said that by this stage Mr Hayden had told Sgt McCabe about the detail of the DPP’s decision but that Supt Cunningham was unaware of this. “It is clear Maurice knew before I did,” Supt Cunningham said.

He said the rules at the time meant he told the sergeant only that it had been decided no charges would be brought as there was insufficient evidence. He was not entitled, he said, to give the substance of the DPP’s views.

Mr McDowell said this left a question mark over Sgt McCabe given that he and the complainant’s father would continue to work alongside each other. Sgt McCabe “felt he had been cleared emphatically”, said Mr McDowell, who questioned whether it was a fair way for him to be treated.

“I can only apologise for acting in accordance with my instructions,” Supt Cunningham said. “I didn’t go outside them.”

He said a file about the investigation went to Garda headquarters in 2007 because the case had a potential disciplinary aspect. He had no further dealings with the file and had not spoken to anyone about it.