Charleton Tribunal: Officer never directed to tell Commissioner’s office McCabe allegation was false

A Garda officer has told the Charleton tribunal she was never directed to inform the office of the garda commissioner that an allegation of serious sexual abuse against whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe was false, reports Gerard Cunningham.

Inspector Karen Duffy held the rank of sergeant and was acting inspector in the office of now retired assistant commissioner Kieran Kenny in 2014, the tribunal heard.

Sergeant Karen Duffy pictured arriving at The Disclosures Tribunal today. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

In May 2014, she was instructed by Mr Kenny to forward to the garda commissioner correspondence from Chief Supt James Sheridan reporting an allegation of abuse against Sgt McCabe.

"He requested me to send it off to the commissioner’s office which I duly did," Insp Duffy said.

An administrative error in Tusla meant that the notification contained details of a serious assault from an unrelated case. The DPP had directed no prosecution of Sgt McCabe in 2007, saying there was no evidence of an offence.

When Tusla discovered the error and reported it to gardai, Chief Supt Sheridan sent a further communication to the assistant commissioner’s office. Sgt Duffy said she was never given an instruction to forward this correspondence.

The sergeant said she would not have the authority or autonomy to forward correspondence on her own, and never received an "instruction or direction" to do so.

Sgt Duffy said that notes of a meeting between Assistant Commissioner Kenny, Chief Superintendent Sheridan and Supt Leo McGinn held in Mullingar in August 2014 to discuss the case were shown to Mr Kenny before she typed them up, and he agreed they were accurate.

Paul McGarry SC, representing Sgt McCabe, said that on Monday, Mr Kenny had sought to "downplay the accuracy of the notes", calling them Sgt Duffy’s "interpretation" of the meeting.

Sgt Duffy told Mícháel P O’Higgins SC, for the garda commissioner, she had no sense of a "conspiracy to do down Sgt McCabe."

Rosalie Smith-Lynch, a HSE Regional General Manager, told the tribunal that the error which led to the false allegation did not constitute a data protection breach, as the only information that was disclosed was the surname of Ms D, which on its own was not enough information to identify her.

When she was informed of the error, she advised that all copies of the erroneous report should be returned by gardai and other agencies for destruction.

HSE manager Dermot Monaghan gave evidence that when he was told of the breach, he requested a review of processes to ensure systems were robust enough that a similar error did not occur again.

Patricia Bannon, who was asked to review procedures, told the tribunal that her function was to ensure that the incorrect report had been rectified. She was not aware there was a second incorrect report in circulation.

Cormac Quinlan, the interim director of policy and strategy with the child and family agency, Tusla, said there had been failures in oversight and governance in dealing with Sgt McCabe.

"There had been a complete failure to comply on so many different levels, by so many different people at every stage of the process," said Paul McGarry SC on behalf of Sgt McCabe.

Mr Quinlan said there was "at times partial compliance with elements of policy but not full compliance."

Mr McGarry said the failures existed at every level.

"They exist for example in the failure to comply with the Children First guidelines. They exist in the notification procedure and the interaction of the Garda Siochana. They exist in relation to the record keeping guidelines that are contained in the regulations. They exist in relation to the manner in which you deal with the alleged person concerned. They exist in relation to data protections," he said.

The tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, which is looking at allegations that Sgt McCabe was the subject of a smear campaign, resumes tomorrow.

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