Tribunal: No new Garda inquiry after false allegation against McCabe

Justice Charleton wants to know to what extent was the matter passed on to Garda HQ

No new investigation was set in train against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe arising from the false and serious allegation of child sex abuse notified to the gardaí in 2014, the Charleton Tribunal has been told by counsel for the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan.

Conor Dignam SC, for Ms O'Sullivan and other Garda officers, made the comment in response to the chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, who said he wanted to know how soon it was discovered by the Garda that a "silly error" had been made in relation to Sgt McCabe.

The tribunal has heard that as a result of an "administrative error", the social work services were notified in 2013 that a serious and incorrect claim of child sex abuse against Sgt McCabe had been made by a woman the tribunal is calling Ms D.

Ms D had in fact, during counselling in 2013, referred to a Garda complaint she had made in 2006 against Sgt McCabe involving a much less significant allegation. However the counsellor wrongly imputed details from a different case involving alleged digital vaginal and anal penetration, onto the Ms D file.

The 2006 complaint had been investigated and the DPP had decided that, even if true, it probably did not constitute an offence.

The sending of the incorrect report by the counselling service in 2013 led to the Garda in turn being notified by the child and family agency, Tusla.

Mr Dignam said that in May 2014, believing that it was in receipt of a new complaint against Sgt McCabe, Chief Superintendent Leo McGinn referred the matter to his chief superintendent and said it merited being investigated by a unit outside the Cavan-Monaghan district.

In the event "no new investigation as such was carried out," he told the tribunal. Evidence will show, he said, that during June and July 2014 it became evident to Chief Superintendent James Sheridan that the complaint was an error made by the Rian counselling service. Asked if anyone had thought to tell Sgt McCabe what was going on, Mr Dignam said no.

Asked if the tribunal would in due course hear if there was a reason for that, Mr Dignam said it would.

Earlier Mr Justice Charleton had said that the 2006 complaint had led to a decision of the DPP that, if the event alleged had occurred, it “did not constitute a sexual assault.”

The 2006 complaint had to do with alleged “dry humping” of Ms D when she was six years old, during a game of hide and seek, and when everyone was fully clothed.

The chairman said the tribunal would like to know how soon it was discovered that a mistake was made by Rian and what the Garda did as a consequence. To what extent was the matter passed on to Garda Headquarters in Dublin? “That’s the bit of the puzzle that I’m interested in.”

He said counsel should have instructions on whether the Garda took the new complaint seriously or did they think “oh, he’s at it again”. He wanted to know if someone had said, “this is absolute nonsense.”

The chairman also referred to the “idiotic follow up” by Tusla, which in December 2015 told Sgt McCabe of the false allegation, of digital vaginal and anal penetration, that had been made against him and that his children were considered to be “at risk”.

The tribunal continues hearing evidence on Friday.