A garda sergeant has told the Charleton Tribunal that she found it "disturbing and upsetting" when a letter was sent to Minister for Children Katherine Zappone claiming she had threatened "repercussions" if the partner of a garda whistleblower failed to make a statement, writes Gerard Cunningham
Sergeant Brigid McGowan said the letter, sent by solicitors for Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Ms Marisa Simms, stated that "during her eight-hour interview, she [Ms Simms] was coerced into making a statement with a threat that if she didn’t, there may be repercussions for her and her children."
Sergeant McGowan said the statement could have been forwarded from the Minister to the Department of Justice and from there, to the Garda Commissioner and her superiors.
"I just found that very upsetting," Sergeant McGowan said.
Sergeant McGowan said gardaí were obliged to notify the HSE once they received the statement, which contained an account of an incident where Garda Harrison allegedly threatened Ms Simms in front of her children.
Paul Anthony McDermott SC representing Tusla said the agency was not criticising the amount of information the Child & Family Agency were given on the by gardaí, and accepted that gardaí had to "make a judgement call". He said Tusla regarded it as being an appropriate referral, and dealt with it as such.
Mr Mark Harty SC, representing Garda Harrison, said it was never the case that a barring order had been granted against his client, as had been alleged in an anonymous letter sent to the HSE in February 2012.
Mr Hugh Hartnett, on behalf of Ms Simms, said it was not the case that Garda Harrison banged his fist on a car dashboard, but rather that he threw his keys against it.
He said Ms Simms did not say that Garda Harrison had pulled her out of bed, but instead that he had pulled a duvet cover off her.
He also said that Ms Simms was never “put out of the house”, but instead referred to leaving the house after domestic disputes.
Mr Hartnett also said that Garda Harrison had said to Ms Simms "You’re going to get burnt if you don’t make up your mind where your loyalties lie," rather than threatening to burn her or bury her.
Sergeant McGowan said she had recorded the words Ms Simms dictated in her statement.