Ex-garda says investigation into his complaint over handling of child sex assault allegation a 'sham'

Retired Garda Sergeant Paul Barry told Disclosures Tribunal that proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent, who he says bullied and harassed him
Ex-garda says investigation into his complaint over handling of child sex assault allegation a 'sham'

Former Garda Sergeant Paul Barry claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was connected to senior gardaí, the tribunal has also heard. Picture: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

A former garda sergeant has told the Disclosures Tribunal that an investigation into a complaint he made over the handling of a child sex assault allegation was a "sham, devoid of morality, sentiment and conscience".

The tribunal is hearing from retired Garda Sergeant Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a complaint in 2012 that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent, who he says bullied and harassed him. 

The Director of Public Prosecutions later directed there be no prosecution of the child sex assault allegation.

The former garda claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was connected to senior gardaí, the tribunal has also heard. 

After a criminal investigation, the DPP directed in November 2015 there be no prosecution relating to Sgt Barry's claims that the superintendent, Michael Comyns, had perverted the course of justice, due to a lack of evidence.

On Wednesday at the tribunal, which is being held in Dublin Castle, chairman Sean Ryan heard that on February 11, 2013, Assistant Commissioner Jack Nolan appointed Chief Superintendent Catherine Kehoe to investigate the bullying and harassment complaints, and any criminal offences identified by Mr Barry. 

Investigation into disciplinary breach

Chief Supt Kehoe was also tasked with investigating if there was a disciplinary breach by Supt Comyns arising from Mr Barry's allegations.

In May 2013, Chief Supt Kehoe submitted her file regarding the bullying and harassment complaint which did not uphold Mr Barry's complaints. 

In August 2015, Chief Supt Kehoe then submitted her file to the DPP regarding the criminal investigation into Mr Barry's allegations that Supt Comyns perverted the course of justice, where she recommended that there was insufficient evidence to sustain a prosecution. 

Finally, in May 2016, Chief Supt Kehoe found Supt Comyns was not in breach of any discreditable conduct regarding Garda regulations.

In his statement, Mr Barry alleges that Chief Supt Kehoe "was sitting on" his complaint and that this amounted to "perverting the course of justice by deliberately delaying her investigation — she deliberately targeted me by not treating my complaint promptly and/or properly". 

He described the investigation as a "sham" and a "biased investigation devoid of morality, sentiment and conscience". 

He further complained that Chief Supt Kehoe "even dealt with my bullying complaint before she dealt with the complaint about the investigation into the sexual assault". Mr Barry said he felt that this sequence was "not proper".

In her statement to the tribunal, Chief Supt Kehoe set out the sequencing of her investigations, which she said were carried out "thoroughly and expeditiously". 

Chief Supt Kehoe said she did not accept any inordinate delay as there were three facets to the investigation, which required assistance from both other sections within An Garda Síochána and external assistance.

On Wednesday, Mr Barry told Mr Shane Murphy SC, for the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, that he believed that his bullying and harassment complaint should not have been investigated by Chief Supt Kehoe before the criminal complaint because while "I made the complaint, I did not consider myself a victim; I made the complaint on behalf of the victim".

Mr Murphy told Mr Barry that there was a strict 28-day time-line for complaints of bullying and harassment to be dealt with and that the other investigations had, in part, been run parallel to his bullying complaint.

In July 2014, Mr Barry wrote a letter to Chief Supt Kehoe stating he had met with the family of the complainant in the sexual assault allegation and said: "I assume the family of this child victim will be interviewed or notified in the course of your investigation".

Sex abuse investigation

Chief Supt Kehoe replied that her investigation was being conducted to establish the facts regarding Mr Barry's assertions around the child sex abuse investigation and that she did not intend to interview the alleged injured party's family as part of the current investigation before her.

In a letter to the Minister for Justice in January 2016, Mr Barry alleged that Chief Supt Kehoe had conducted a "sham investigation, without informing the injured party" and that Chief Supt Kehoe "had failed the victim and the family by not doing so. As a result, the DPP's decision was made without all the facts."

In her statement, Chief Supt Kehoe said that the "victim complainant that I was appointed to investigate was none other than Sergeant Paul Barry and the suspect in this investigation was none other than Supt Michael Comyns".

Mr Barry told Mr Murphy the victim in the case was "the child and the family" of the sexual assault complainant. Mr Barry said he was later told by a Garda Ombudsman officer that Ch Supt Kehoe had been instructed to inform the alleged victim and family.

Chairman Ryan asked Mr Barry how, even if Chief Supt Keogh had been told to inform the complainants of the investigation, this would amount to targeting him.

Mr Barry repeated that his complaint was made on behalf of the alleged victim of the abuse and the family and that the DPP made its decision without his view and also without all the available information.

Mr Murphy put it to Mr Barry that the investigations carried out by Chief Supt Kehoe were "thorough, efficient, wide-ranging, professional, comprehensive and in keeping with good practice".

Mr Barry said that while the investigations "might be efficient, they were not timely".

He said if he had taken three years to conclude an investigation "I'd be in trouble". He added that the three-year investigation did amount to the targeting of him "because the time it took to conduct — the longer it took, the more stress I was under", adding that aspects of it caused him "harm".

Mr Barry will continue to give his evidence to the tribunal on Thursday.

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