Charleton Tribunal: Witness’s ‘wave of panic’ over error in report

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 Sgt Maurice McCabe.

In its first section, the tribunal 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, 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.

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.

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.

Ms Brophy said that Ms D referred to Sgt McCabe as a garda whistleblower, but Ms Brophy said 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 Ms 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.”

Ms Brophy said the mistake was discovered on May 2014, when she was contacted by Ms D, who left a phone message on May 14, 2014, informing her of the error. She said Ms D was 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, Ms 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. Her evidence resumes today.

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