Social worker tells Charleton Tribunal false sex abuse allegations had 'absolutely nothing to do with gardaí'

Kay McLoughlin arriving at the Chalreton Tribunal today. Pic: Collins.

A witness has told the Charleton Tribunal that gardaí had nothing to do with the errors which lead to a file containing false allegations of sexual abuse against garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The tribunal is examining claims that allegations of sexual abuse were used as part of a campaign to smear and undermine the reputation of Sgt McCabe.

A Tusla file on Sgt McCabe was opened when Ms D sought counselling in 2013 about a previously reported allegation, which was investigated by gardaí in 2006. The DPP decided against pressing charges in the case due to lack of evidence in 2007.

In January 2016 solicitors for Sgt McCabe wrote to Tusla after the sergeant received a letter written by social work team leader Kay McLoughlin which contained false allegations of serious sexual abuse by Sgt McCabe.

The letter incorrectly contained an allegation that Sgt McCabe "digitally penetrated" Ms D and threatened her father.

On day nine of the tribunal, Diarmaid McGuinness SC asked Ms McLoughlin if the errors in the file on Sgt McCabe were created and perpetuated in-house.

"Yes, absolutely nothing to do with gardaí," Ms McLoughlin said.

Ms McLoughlin reviewed the files in late 2015, but said she did not see an email in the file which outlined how the allegation of "digital penetration" from an unrelated case had been added to the file.

Tribunal barrister Mr McGuinness said the false allegation was repeated in six documents in the file in 2014, and that of the remaining 19 documents, a number were devoted to correcting the error, including an email from social worker team leader Eileen Argue outlining how the error occurred.

Ms McLoughlin said she accepted she had missed a crucial piece of information,

"I did not review the file fully. I had no cause to know an error had been made in it."

"I failed to appreciate that there was a significant error on the file and I failed to review the file thoroughly,” she said.

Ms McLoughlin said she was aware of Sgt McCabe from media reports. She said she assumed Ms D might have sought counselling in 2013 because "Mr McCabe's name being in the media may have triggered something for her."

She said media coverage did not influence her actions.

"I would treat all cases similarly or equally. It wouldn't be a reason to treat the case differently," she said.

Asked if she or anyone in her department were "out to get" Sgt McCabe, she replied "absolutely not."

"I have no cause to have a grievance with anybody that I would take such action," she said.

Ms McLoughlin said she sought a meeting with Ms D but this did not take place because Ms D was sitting exams.

She said she asked a Garda Byrne about the case informally at a meeting with gardaí over abuse cases, but it was not on the agenda for the meeting.

Mr McGuinness said that Garda Byrne remembered the conversation, and that the case predated his arrival in Bailieboro and he knew nothing of what had transpired.

"This case wasn't followed up in a consistent way by me or by anyone else," Ms McLoughlin said.

She said that if she had followed through and arranged a meeting with Ms D, or read the file fully, a letter sent to Sgt McCabe at the end of 2015 would never have been issued.

"I fully accept that letter was inappropriate to be sent out. I take responsibility for it," she said.

She accepted a suggestion from Mr McGuinness that the letter "must have created seismic shocks in the McCabe household".

Mr McGuinness asked the witness if the documents containing the false allegations "either ought to have been completely removed from the file or stamped as inaccurate and not to be relied upon."

She replied that the understanding was they should be removed from the file.

"Had I been aware that there was an error on the file at that time I would have sought the aid of a data specialist,” she said.

After solicitors for Sgt McCabe responded to the letter sent to the sergeant, Ms McLoughlin said that she realised she had made a "grave error".

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