Retired Garda sergeant claims child sex assault investigation was prevented by superintendent

Retired Garda sergeant claims child sex assault investigation was prevented by superintendent

Superintendent Mick Comyns. Picture: Dan Linehan

A retired Garda sergeant claimed that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent who he says bullied and harassed him, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

The former garda claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was allegedly connected to senior gardaí, the tribunal also heard. The DPP later directed no prosecution due to a lack of evidence.

In opening the module on Tuesday morning at Dublin Castle, Sinead McGrath, for the tribunal, read out an opening statement outlining the complaints made by retired Co Cork sergeant Paul Barry.

Mr Barry says that he was being targeted, harassed, isolated, and discredited by his superiors by October 2012, when he made a bullying complaint and then made protected disclosures while he was working in Mitchelstown Garda Station.

Ms McGrath told retired judge Mr Justice Sean Ryan that Mr Barry made nine allegations in total, one of which related to the district officer in Fermoy regarding his conduct in the investigation of an allegation of the sexual assault of a minor made to Mitchelstown Garda Station in February 2012.

During that investigation, Mr Barry claims, investigating members became aware that one of the alleged suspects was allegedly connected to Superintendent John Quilter, the district officer at Midleton Garda District, and to Chief Superintendent Anthony Quilter, who was later the assistant commissioner for the Southern Region.

Ms McGrath said Mr Barry claims he conveyed this information to Superintendent Michael Comyns. Mr Barry's bullying and harassment complaint of 2012 alleged that "the whole investigation was compromised by Supt Comyns' actions and directions".

Internal Garda investigation

A lengthy internal Garda investigation was carried out regarding Supt Comyn's role in the investigation. On November 17, 2015, the DPP directed that no prosecution would be directed on the sexual assault allegation due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Barry, who also made seven protected disclosures, told tribunal investigators that "in my statement to Supt Patrick Lordan, I made an allegation that Supt Comyns had perverted the course of justice in relation to the manner in which he prevented the proper investigation of the rape/sexual assault of a child. He undermined my ability to carry out the investigation in a proper manner by his actions, and his actions were deliberately targeted to frustrate the investigation". 

Mr Barry says he was being punished by superiors for not "towing the line" and further alleges that subsequent investigations into other protected disclosures also amounted to a "perversion of the course of justice".

Mr Barry told Diarmaid McGuinness, for the tribunal, that he took up duty in Mitchelstown in January 2000 until June 2016 when he retired on pension. Mr Barry first made his complaints through a bullying and harassment Garda procedure on October 2, 2012, and made his first protected disclosure the same day. In all, Mr Barry complained of eight incidents regarding Supt Comyns.

Mr Barry said Supt Comyns was appointed in July 2010 to Fermoy Garda district and that he "never had such difficulty with a superintendent". "Since day one, I felt he had something against me," Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness. Mr Barry said that he felt this difficulty could have been related back to a 2004 failed attempt to transfer him to Fermoy.

Mr Barry, who reported "non-effective" for duty in August 2012, is also alleging that his illness was not treated as work-related stress, despite his GP recording him medically unfit for work due to "work-related illness". 

The Garda system recorded Mr Barry as being absent due to "illness: flu/virus" from the period of August 6, 2012, to March 29, 2013. Any member absent from duty for an "ordinary illness" is put on reduced wages. However, if the member is certified as having an "injury on duty", they are entitled to full pay without allowances for the period of absence.

'Deliberately targeted'

In his statement, Mr Barry said he felt he was being "deliberately targeted" by management in this regard to "punish me financially". 

Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness that he had been suffering stress and was sleep deprived when he reported unfit for duty due in large part to his feelings about the sex assault allegation investigation and suffered financial loss due to being listed as having an ordinary illness.

Mr Barry has also complained of his work-related stress not being investigated, of being pressured by management to transfer stations, of implied criticism of his report regarding a fatal fire, of an inquiry made by Garda management to his GP, and of being denied leave days.

Mr Barry will return to give his evidence on Thursday.

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