Charleton Tribunal: credibility of claims against McCabe not tested

Social worker says no credibility assessment carried out on claims by daughter of colleague

Judge Peter Charleton at Dublin Castle in February 2017. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The father of the girl who made an allegation of child sexual abuse against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was a Garda colleague and identified him to a social worker as the alleged abuser, the Charleton Tribunal has heard.

The girl, who is being called Ms D, was known to the social services in 2005 as a troubled teenager who was engaging in self-harm, sexual behaviour, and whose parents were finding her difficult to manage.

Her sexual behaviour with a person, prior to the allegation against Sgt McCabe, had led to an arrest and a file being prepared by the gardaí.

The Charleton Tribunal, which is holding its first module of evidence on Tuesday, has heard that the girl’s father was a colleague of Sgt McCabe’s and gave Sgt McCabe’s personal details to a social worker when she called to Ms D’s home.


It has also heard that a Garda officer advised the social worker at one stage that there were “doubts about the credibility” of Ms D and that she was “spinning different stories”.

The tribunal is investigating a number of matters including an alleged smear campaign against Sgt McCabe by senior Garda management and a smear campaign on the basis of an allegation of child sexual abuse.

Social worker Rhona Murphy has told the tribunal Ms D was known to the HSE’s social work services in 2005. Her parents were finding her behaviour difficult to cope with and she was running away from home.

When the case was allocated to Ms Murphy in September 2005, it was because of an allegation of sexual behaviour that involved a person other than Sgt McCabe and which led to an arrest and a file being sent to the DPP. Ms Murphy was the “intake social worker” for child protection cases at the time.

On December 6th, 2006, Ms Murphy spoke with the girl’s mother, Mrs D, over the phone and was told that Ms D had made a statement against a man saying that in the course of a game she had been held over a sofa and there had been a “humping” motion. Everyone had been fully clothed.

At the time Ms D was 16 years old and her mother told the witness the alleged inappropriate behaviour had occurred when the girl was approximately six years old.

On December 12th, 2006 Ms Murphy visited Ms D’s home and spoke with her and her family. Mr D told her, she told the tribunal, who the alleged perpetrator was.

He also said that he was a colleague of Sgt McCabe. There was a “long discussion” but as she was aware that the matter was going to be referred elsewhere she did not ask Ms D to give details of the allegation.

Ms Murphy said she was given Sg McCabe’s name and address, his wife’s name, and his children’s names by Mr D.

She told Kathleen Leader BL, for the tribunal that she could not remember this but assumed it was the case from her review of the files.

She was also given a copy of the statement Ms D had made to gardaí in which she made the allegation against Sgt McCabe.

Two days later she spoke with Inspector Noel Cunningham about the case on the telephone. She told Micheal McDowell SC, for Sgt McCabe, that she was warned that Ms D was “spinning different stories”.

The tribunal heard the Director of Public Prosecutions decided there would be no prosecution arising from the complaint against Sgt McCabe.

A decision was made to close the file on Ms D.

Sgt McCabe had not been contacted about the case even though it was procedure that persons against whom allegations had been made would be told this, and also assessed as to their level of risk to children.

Ms Murphy told Mr McDowell it was the case that the file was closed without any credibility assessment being conducted in relation to Ms D.

She told the tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton, that “going over the finer details” of an allegation can be detrimental to a young person.

In the case of Ms D, a statement had been taken by the gardaí. The chairman asked if this “absolved” the social services from carrying out a credibility assessment?

Ms Murphy said as well as possibly being detrimental to the young person, an interview by the social services could also “put evidence in jeopardy if the account changed.”

She said Ms D didn’t want “to engage in a deep way with credibility” and it was more “a therapeutic intervention”. In April 2007 Ms D ended the therapeutic engagement.

Ms Murphy told the tribunal that at the time the file was being closed, she wrote to colleague Mary O’Reilly pointing out that Sgt McCabe had not yet been contacted about the matter.

The file, she said, concerned Ms D and not Sgt McCabe, and dealing with the sergeant was not her responsibility.

The tribunal also heard that the witness had met Sgt McCabe in the course of her work in a professional capacity. It was decided by the social services that because of their contacts with Sgt McCabe in the course of their work, the social services in Co Meath would contact Sgt McCabe for the purposes telling him about the matter and for a risk assessment.

Sgt McCabe was the “go to” person for child protection issues as the sergeant in charge of the Bailieboro Garda station.

Ms Murphy said her late father-in-law was a garda, her brother-in-law was a garda, and she had friends in the gardaí. She knew Mr D in a professional capacity. She never discussed the case with him other than during the meeting in his home.

She told Mr McDowell the case was allocated to her in September 2005 in relation to concerns that existed at the time and contact with a person other than Sgt McCabe. She had not known that this had led to an arrest and a file going to the DPP.

She confirmed that Ms D’s file was closed in October 2007, by which time Ms D was no longer engaged with the service. Ms D had said “everything had settled down” and she had “no further issues”. The file was marked “inconclusive” when closed.

Ms Murphy said the purpose of meeting with people against whom allegations had been made was to inform them of the allegation and to assess that person in terms of risk.

Mr McDowell said that in respect of a complaint which had not been assessed as to its credibility, Sgt McCabe was to be assessed as to his risk to children.

He said that by writing a letter pointing out that Sgt McCabe had not been met, she was implicitly saying he should be met to see if he posed a risk to children? “Yes,”, the witness said.

Mary O’Reilly, the acting principal social worker in Cavan Monaghan between 2004 and 2009, said that with teenagers it wasn’t considered best practice to put a young person through a credibility assessment if they had made a Garda statement as well.

She said assessing the risk an alleged abuser might pose was a “service” that was offered and need not suggest “in any way that there was a concern in regard to the person”.

Mr Justice Charleton said it was hard to imagine that as a service.

It would not be “exactly the most cheerful phone call you could get.” Ms O’Reilly said it would usually be offered during a meeting and was “taken up by people at times.” She agreed with the chairman that the contexts could include the possible losing of your children.

The evidence continues.

Colm Keena

Colm Keena

Colm Keena is an Irish Times journalist. He was previously legal-affairs correspondent and public-affairs correspondent