Garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe had reason to believe he was being “set up” by members of An Garda Síochána , the O’Higgins report into allegations of garda malpractice has ruled.
The report, which has been delivered to the Department of Justice, reserves high praise for Sergeant McCabe, saying he is a “person who acted out of genuine and legitimate concern” and that the commission “unreservedly accepts his bona fides”.
Former High Court judge Kevin O’Higgins went on to state that the sergeant “had shown courage and performed a genuine public service at considerable personal cost. For this, he is due the gratitude of not only the general public but An Garda Síochána.”
The judge stated that Sgt McCabe “was never less than truthful in his evidence even if prone to exaggeration at times”.
Mr O’Higgins upheld nearly all of the sergeant’s allegations of poor or errant investigation work in the Cavan-Monaghan region, into cases ranging from endangerment to sexual assault and serious physical assault.
The O’Higgins commission of investigation was set up following the Guerin inquiry in 2014 into the sergeant’s allegations of serious malpractice within the force.
The most harrowing case was that of Jerry McGrath, who was released on bail for the false imprisonment of a child, while already being on bail for a serious assault in Cavan six months previously. In December 2007, 10 days after his second release, he murdered a woman in Limerick.
Mr O’Higgins found that Sgt McCabe’s complaint in that and all but one of a dozen other instances were justified and upheld.
He also noted that Sgt McCabe “had reason to believe that he was being set up and wrongly implicated” in some of the cases of which he had complained.
Sgt McCabe had claimed that he was being set up by colleagues as a result of having made the complaints of malpractice. The former judge found that any such belief was “unproven”.
However, within the report, a copy of which has been seen by the Irish Examiner, there are five instances in which there were attempts by members of the force to blame Mr McCabe for malpractice or poor policing.
Two of those were aired for the first time at the commission, despite the cases dating back eight and nine years. In all cases, Mr O’Higgins ruled that the sergeant was being wrongly blamed.
The chairman also criticised An Garda Siochana for its “unhelpful and frustrating” response to orders of discovery of documents to the commission.
The Irish Examiner understands that, on one occasion, the commission ordered a search for documents of the garda station in Bailieborough, Co Cavan, which was done out by two barristers.
The report is contradictory in places, as it largely exonerates all senior officers against whom allegations were made. However, in a number of instances, various senior officers are criticised for either their police work or for the manner in which Mr McCabe’s initial complaints were dealt with in an internal inquiry.
Most of the blame for the poor and shoddy work is apportioned to gardaí and sergeants, rather than any senior officers. O’Higgins exonerates former justice minister Alan Shatter and former garda commissioner Martin Callinan, both of whom resigned from office.
The report found both were entitled to rely on reports that they had been handed and that they did not act wrongly our outside their powers.
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