Charleton inquiry: Brophy felt 'wave of panic' when she realised report had incorrectly described abuse allegations

Charleton inquiry: Brophy felt 'wave of panic' when she realised report had incorrectly described abuse allegations
Laura Brophy at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Update 6pm: A witness at the Disclosures Tribunal described feeling a "wave of panic" when she realised she had incorrectly described abuse allegations in a report she wrote in 2013, increasing the severity of allegations against Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal was set up to investigate an alleged smear campaign against Sgt Maurice McCabe.

In its first section, it is examining whether files created by other State agencies were created and distributed or otherwise used by senior members of our police force in inventing or furthering a false allegation of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe.

In July 2013 Laura Brophy, a psychologist and counsellor with RIAN, a free counselling service under the remit of the HSE, first met with Ms D, who had made allegations of sexual abuse in 2005 and 2006.

Ms Brophy said she understood that at the time she had a duty under the Childcare Act to notify the child and family agency, Tusla if an alleged abuser was identified by a client during her counselling sessions.

She told tribunal barrister Diarmaid McGuinness SC that she had explained this to the teenager at the time.

In an initial handwritten account of her first meeting with Ms D, Ms Brophy recorded accurately what she was told by her client, that a man had tickled her and touched her inappropriately while playing hide and seek.

The DPP had decided not to bring charges on the case in 2007.

Ms D did not identify the alleged abuser in her first counselling meeting, but said that he was a garda. She said she was worried no one would believe her because he was a garda, and was relieved when she was believed. She said she felt angry when the DPP did not press charges.

Ms Brophy said her concern was not criminal prosecutions, but child protection. She wanted to know if she needed to report the allegation or it had already been dealt with.

Maurice McCabe & his wife Lorraine McCabe at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin.
Maurice McCabe & his wife Lorraine McCabe at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin.

She said she spoke to a colleague, Briege Tinnelly, who told her there was no complaint on record.

At a second meeting with Ms D, Sgt McCabe was identified, and Ms Brophy wrote up a report, using a "Microsoft Word template". Ms Brophy said that Ms D referred to Sgt McCabe as a garda whistleblower, but it meant nothing to her at the time.

Ms Brophy said she could not explain how a series of more serious allegations, made in an unrelated case involving a Ms Y, were included in the report on Miss D.

"I'm aware I had done a number of reports at the time," she said.

"It's something I've been considering. I thought I had a reasonable explanation. It's just not clear," she said.

Ms Brophy said the mistake was discovered on May 2014, when she was contacted by Ms D, who left a phone message on 14 May 2014, informing her of the error. She said Ms D was emotional and upset, and told her there was a report in Bailieborough Garda station to the effect that she had been raped.

"I immediately apologised and said I would try to resolve this, that I would contact social services," she said.

"I knew it had come from another client, Miss Y,” referring to an unrelated case involving a more serious allegation.

"I acknowledged the mistake. I knew immediately what it was, a complete mistake on my part."

Ms Brophy said she had not sent a report to Gardaí, but that it could have been sent on by her superiors.

She said she spoke to Eileen Argue, a social work team leader, who told her she would get the files recalled and replaced with accurate information.

She also said she spoke to Garda Supt Leo McGinn, who said that the commissioner was aware of the issue and a Garda team from outside the division was looking into the matter. Ms Brophy said that she believed she had corrected the error in May 2014, having contacted the HSE and garda authorities.

Ms Brophy's evidence resumes tomorrow.

Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin.
Sergeant Maurice McCabe at the The Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle, Dublin.

Earlier: By Gerard Cunningham

Allegations of child sexual abuse made against Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe “came out of the blue” when they were put to him nine years later, a Tribunal Judge has said.

Social worker Rhona Murphy told the Disclosures Tribunal that a garda colleague of Sgt McCabe named him as the alleged abuser of his daughter, identified as Ms D.

The Tribunal, chaired by Justice Mr Peter Charleton, is investigating whether there was an alleged smear campaign against garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe.

In its first section, it is examining whether files created by other state agencies were created and distributed or otherwise used by senior members of our police force in inventing or furthering a false allegation of sexual abuse against Sgt McCabe.

Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe (right), arriving with his legal team for the first day of public hearing at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.
Garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe (right), arriving with his legal team for the first day of public hearing at the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.

The allegations, from a woman identified as Miss D, emerged after she was initially referred to social workers over a different issue in September 2005.

The allegations against Sgt McCabe were made in a statement to Gardai in December 2006. The sergeant was not interviewed by social workers about the allegation, despite a meeting in April 2007 which minuted that he should be "offered a risk assessment".

Ms Murphy said that because the DPP had decided against a prosecution, Miss D had "disengaged" from the service, and the child sexual abuse team had completed their assessment, the case was formally closed in October 2007.

In a letter about the case at the time, Ms Murphy noted that Sgt McCabe has not been met by any social worker about the allegations.

Tribunal chairman Peter Charleton said that the allegation "literally came out of the blue" when it was put to Sgt McCabe almost a decade later.

Mary O’Reilly, who was in overall charge of social work in the Cavan-Monaghan area, said that as sergeant-in-charge at Bailieboro garda station, Sgt mcCabe would have been known to social workers.

She said that although her office had draft guidelines in place on dealing with abuse allegations, there were no national guidelines at the time.

She said that no "credibility assessment" had been made because the procedure was designed for interviewing young children, and Miss D was an adolescent and had already given a garda statement.

And she said the guidelines at the time were "not robust enough" for dealing with cases where the alleged perpetrator was a colleague or someone known to social workers.

Asked why no one had met with Sgt McCabe, Ms O’Reilly said that her role was changing at the time and that the case possibly "fell off the radar".

She said that she was happy at the time the decision was made to close the file that there was no risk. And she said she could not speculate whether someone else reviewing the file would reach the same conclusions.

Both witnesses said they had not discussed the case with anyone outside their workplace or with members of An Garda Siochana.

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