Failures in Bailieborough assault inquiry were ‘the final straw’

Among the dozen cases in the dossier passed onto Enda Kenny by Micheál Martin, was one Sergeant Maurice McCabe claims was the last straw for him at Bailieborough station.

The case involved a serious assault in a pub in the Co Cavan town.

It was 11pm when the victim was subjected to a savage beating. He was in Crossan’s public house, on Lower Main St. Two local youths were understood to have been responsible. It is not known what prompted the assault on May 2007.

The attack continued outside the pub. Most of the assault was captured on CCTV. The gardaí and an ambulance were called.

The victim was taken to Cavan General Hospital where he was detained for a number of days.

A couple of days later, somebody showed up at Bailieborough station, and informed officers the two youths had returned to the pub the day after the assault and watched a rerun of the previous night’s events.

On May 27, the victim came to the station and made a complaint. Sgt McCabe alleges that the man has permanent injuries as a result of what happened.

The case was assigned to an investigating garda, who was supervised by a sergeant. As station sergeant, McCabe inquired a number of times of his colleague whether a warrant had been sought to seize the CCTV footage. He was assured that the warrant was on the way.

Over a month later, McCabe asked his colleague directly whether a warrant had been sought. He alleges the other sergeant confirmed it hadn’t.

Then, on July 6, off his own bat, McCabe applied for the search warrant for the investigating garda. Following that intervention, the footage was seized from the pub.

In the normal run of events, footage of this nature would be examined in Garda headquarters in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

McCabe alleges an application to HQ was made through the local superintendent’s office.

The whistleblower’s complaint includes all the relevant correspondence.

The months rolled on but no file was prepared on the assault.

On November 21, McCabe says he reported the lack of progress to his superintendent. He reported again on December 14, but there was apparently still no movement.

Some weeks later, a garda called to McCabe’s office and told him the footage had never been sent to Dublin, but had lain in his own locker all the time.

Days later, McCabe was told by a colleague that the assault victim had withdrawn his complaint. Withdrawing a complaint in this manner was highly unusual, and McCabe says he became suspicious.

He visited the home of the victim, and was invited in by the victim’s partner. She told him that the investigating garda had arrived at their home some days previously and told them that the case was very weak and he wanted a statement of withdrawal.

The partner said the investigating garda had been sympathetic towards them, but she became very emotional when it became plain nothing was going to be done about the assault.

McCabe alleges she said she had trusted the garda because she took him at face value, but in light of all that happened, she was distraught. McCabe reported events to the superintendent, but, he claims, nothing further was done.

For McCabe, the case was what his complaint describes as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

He says he was left with no option but to resign his position as sergeant in charge of the station. Soon after, he was transferred to Mullingar.

He made a complaint and the whole case was investigated by an assistant commissioner. McCabe says he later discovered that the assault was only entered onto the Pulse system in March 2008, nine months after it occurred.

The official Garda investigation found that there was very little by way of negligence or malpractice.

“While there is no doubt that [the investigating garda] has been found wanting in the past in relation to his work, it is felt by this office that Mr [the victim] contributed largely to the failure in this investigation,” the internal review reported.

According to McCabe’s complaint, the victim had no input into the investigation after making his complaint, and could not therefore be blamed for shortcomings. The internal investigation also goes on: “Sergeant McCabe refers to this assault as a serious assault, which he [the senior officer involved] deems it not.”

One way or the other, when the case finally came to court, Judge Sean McBride refused jurisdiction, because he felt the assault was too serious for the district court. A book of evidence was sent to the DPP but the failures to investigate the matter in a timely manner meant that there was ultimately a lack of evidence on which to prosecute. No disciplinary action was recommended against any officers in the internal investigation.

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