By Gerard Cunningham
Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe no longer trusted anybody after a complaint of child sexual assault was made against him, the Charleton tribunal has heard.
The tribunal is looking into whether Sgt McCabe was the target of a smear campaign on the direction of senior Garda management.
On day 14 of the tribunal Superintendent Noel Cunningham gave evidence of conducting an investigation in late 2006 and early 2007 into a sex assault allegation made by the teenage daughter of a garda colleague of Sgt McCabe.
The girl, identified only as Ms D, alleged that Sgt McCabe had rubbed up against her when she was aged around six.
The tribunal has previously heard evidence that eleven months before Ms D made the allegation about Sgt McCabe her father, Mr D, was disciplined as a result of a report by Sgt McCabe. Both officers were stationed in Bailieboro, Co Cavan.
In his report to the local State solicitor on the complaint, Supt Cunningham said in January 2006 Mr D had been to the funeral of a popular local figure and had gone to the pub afterwards with some colleagues.
While in the pub the officers heard of the suicide of another young man known to Mr D and his colleagues. They went to the scene in a "highly emotional and intoxicated” state. Sgt McCabe was in charge of the scene and had to remove them from the scene. He later made a report on the incident and as a result of this report Mr D and another officer were "reverted to regular duties."
In his report to the DPP, local state solicitor Rory Hayden said there were inconsistencies in the file on Ms D’s allegations, and that the "alleged victim’s credibility is strained in all these circumstances". He said the alleged incident was unclear and even if true, amounted to “horseplay” and no more.
The DPP decided there would be no prosecution. When Supt Cunningham subsequently met with Sgt McCabe he told him only that there "insufficient evidence" for a prosecution.
Michael McDowell SC, acting for Sgt McCabe, said that it "left a question mark over Sgt McCabe" because his client didn’t know that the DPP had found there was no evidence any offence had been committed.
Supt Cunningham said he was limited he what he could tell the sergeant about the case.
"I can only apologise for acting in accordance with my instructions, judge. I didn’t go outside them," Supt Cunningham said.
He said that following the 2006 investigation, Sgt McCabe had said the investigation had changed him and he no longer trusted anybody.
Supt Cunningham said he did not think there was any urgency in a 2013 letter from Tusla asking for a meeting regarding abuse allegations made against Sgt McCabe.
"There was certainly nothing to alert me to any urgency in this matter," he said.
He understood the letter, from social work team leader Keara McGlone, referred to Sgt McCabe, the tribunal heard.
Six years earlier, Supt Cunningham had written a report on the investigation for the DPP following a complaint of indecent assault by Ms D against Sgt McCabe, recommending no prosecution.
A Tusla file on Sgt McCabe was subsequently opened after Ms D sought counselling in 2013. Allegations from an unrelated case were incorrectly added to this file.
Ms McGlone wrote the letter seeking a meeting with Supt Cunningham after Ms D sought counselling, asking for a meeting to discuss whether HSE social workers needed to speak to Sgt McCabe.
Supt Cunningham said that because of the sensitivity of the original investigation, he was "ultra-careful" and kept the case file in his own possession.
He said he added the letter from Ms McGlone to the file, and because the case had been closed in 2007 when the DPP recommended no prosecution, he forgot about it.
"The intention was never not to respond to the letter. The intention was to meet with Ms McGlone.
"It was very unfortunate that I have been ultra-careful because if I hadn’t been my own office would have reminded me that this matter hadn’t been dealt with," he sai.
Supt Cunningham agreed with tribunal barrister Pat Marrinan SC that Sgt McCabe had been "a thorn in your side".
The witness said that Sgt McCabe "had an input into" complaints that had been made about his conduct. He said these complaints were "completely unfounded".
The witness said that in 2017, "very detailed searches" were carried out for the letter, following data protection requests, but it was not found at first.
"We had searched literally everywhere in the office and then I returned to the main investigation office. Something obviously twigged, and it was there,” he said.
He said the fact Sgt McCabe was a thorn in his side did not contaminate his attitude.
Supt Cunningham said that in 2013 Sgt McCabe wasn’t taking over his mind.
"I was dealing with a very busy district, I had lots to do, I had family commitments," he said.
He said that on the day a letter arrived from Tusla asking for a meeting, he was "extremely busy".
The tribunal continues.