No evidence on computers of negative McCabe briefings, tribunal told

Computer used by ex-Garda chief Callinan was ‘set to factory settings on April 4th, 2014’

Sgt Maurice McCabe (above): The Charleton Tribunal is examining allegations by former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor that he was directed by ex-commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively about the Garda whistleblower. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

Sgt Maurice McCabe (above): The Charleton Tribunal is examining allegations by former Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor that he was directed by ex-commissioner Martin Callinan to brief the media negatively about the Garda whistleblower. Photograph: Stephen Collins/Collins

 

No evidence was found on Garda computer systems or electronic devices to support allegations from ex-press officer Supt David Taylor that he was instructed to tell the media negative things about whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe, the Charleton tribunal has heard.

Two scientists from the Forensic Service Northern Ireland (FSNI) told the tribunal they examined phones and computers used by Supt Taylor and former Garda commissioners Martin Callinan and Nóirín O’Sullivan between July 2012 and May 2014, the period when Supt Taylor was in the Garda Press Office.

The tribunal is examining allegations by Supt Taylor that he was directed by Mr Callinan to brief the media negatively about Sgt McCabe. Mr Callinan denies the allegation.

Elaine Strachan, of FSNI, said she examined three telephones which had been used by Supt Taylor, two used by Mr Callinan, and two telephones and an iPad used by Ms O’Sullivan.

Text messages on the first phone used by Mr Callinan had been deleted, Ms Strachan said. The second phone was handed back to Garda HQ by Mr Callinan when it developed a fault, and was assigned to another officer after being repaired. No information from the time when Mr Callinan used the device remained on the phone, she said.

No evidence to support the allegation was found on any of three phones used by Supt Taylor between September 2014 and May 2015, after he was reassigned from the press office.

No relevant evidence

An iPad used by Ms O’Sullivan contained no evidence to support Supt Taylor’s claim that he was instructed by Mr Callinan to give negative briefings, or that Ms O’Sullivan was aware of such an instruction. Examination of mobile phones used by her also contained no relevant evidence, Ms Strachan said.

Mark McConnell, of FSNI, said he examined a laptop used by Supt Taylor during his time as press officer, using a list of 33 keywords suggested by the tribunal which included “McCabe”, “Cabe”, “Whistleblower”, “Rat”, “child”, “child abuse”, “kiddy fiddler”, “reputation” and “negative publicity”. No files found using these words were relevant to the tribunal’s inquiries.

Supt Taylor did not have access to his Garda email account on the laptop, the tribunal heard. A search of an image of the computer hard drive also yielded negative results.

A computer which was used by Mr Callinan, and purchased from Garda HQ on his retirement, was wiped and reset to factory settings on April 4th, 2014, “in accordance with Garda protocol”, tribunal barrister Ms Kathleen Leader said.

No data before that date was available, Mr McConnell said.

Mr McConnell also examined various computer systems at Garda HQ, including the Pulse system.

One Garda system which holds Garda correspondence contained two “potentially relevant” files relating to Sgt McCabe, but neither was about negative briefing, Mr McConnell said.

Tusla notification

One of these files related to a Fixed Charge Penalty system complaint. The second related to correspondence from the northern region assistant commissioner’s office in Sligo containing a Tusla notification of suspected child abuse.

The correspondence, received by Garda HQ on May 16th, 2014, contained a scanned PDF file and a Word document.

The tribunal has previously heard evidence of the creation of a Tusla file in error after a 2006 allegation against Sgt McCabe resurfaced. The allegations by “Miss D” had been dismissed by the DPP after a 2006 Garda investigation, but they were incorrectly recorded as a more serious allegation after resurfacing.

Barrister Donal McGuinness, on behalf of Mr Callinan, asked the witness to confirm that “any information at all denigrating Sgt McCabe would have been considered relevant, and no such information was found”. Mr McConnell agreed.

Ms Leader said there were two “privileged systems” Mr McConnell was not granted access to, and witnesses will give evidence on those systems on Friday.