Minister Shatter papers over real issues of cases

IN his speech yesterday, the justice minister made reference to two of the cases included in the dossier compiled by Sergeant Maurice McCabe.

In relation to the assault on Mary Lynch and the subsequent murder of Silvia Roche Kelly in 2007, Alan Shatter said the matter had been referred to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission in a complaint by Ms Roche Kelly’s husband.

GSOC considered it a less serious breech of discipline and referred the matter to the gardaí, where it was investigated.

The case involves a number of strands. Jerry McGrath viciously assaulted Ms Lynch and was mistakenly charged with a minor offence and released on station bail. The file on the case did not go to the DPP for six months, until days after McGrath was arrested for an attempted child abduction case in Tipperary. McGrath was then released on bail by a court in Tipperary that was not informed he was already on bail for the assault charge. Five weeks later, he murdered Ms Roche Kelly in Limerick.

Whatever the result of inquiries, nobody was held in any way responsible for the individual links in the chain of events that resulted in this tragedy.

Another element of the case referred to by Mr Shatter yesterday was the failure to inform Ms Lynch of the impending conviction of McGrath for the assault on her.

“I am advised that, prior to my time as minister, as a result of the failure to advise Mary Lynch to be present in the district court on the day when a plea of guilty was entered by the defendant in her case and sentence imposed, An Garda Síochána internally addressed this failure,” he said.

In fact, there was no failure to advise Ms Lynch to be present. There was a phonecall two days before the appointed date advising her NOT to be present, because, it was claimed, McGrath would be remanded. One theory is that the local gardaí didn’t want her present because by then McGrath was a notorious figure, and Ms Lynch might speak out publicly in court about how her case had been mishandled. No action was taken against any officer in this matter.

The second case mentioned by Mr Shatter was from the 2012 dossier, concerning the prosecution of a priest on child sex abuse and child pornography charges. Here, Mr Shatter inferred there was no problem as the priest was convicted.

He said: “The report went on to explain that this investigation centred on offensive and inappropriate behaviour with a 14-year-old boy, and that it was apparent that the investigation was efficiently and speedily carried out, resulting in the priest being convicted and sentenced to five-year concurrent sentences. The assurances which I received were essentially to the effect that these matters had been fully investigated in accordance with the law in place at the time.”

In fact, the complaint had to do with the loss in custody of a computer seized from the priest’s home. The hard drive, which it was believed might contain images of child pornography, simply disappeared. Crucially, all documentary record of its existence also disappeared. It was never referenced in case conference notes or in the file submitted to the DPP. There was no investigation to determine what had befallen the hard drive.

Luck would have it that other evidence was sufficient to convict the priest, but the matter un-doubtedly involved malpractice.

A sinister postscript to the missing computer involved an attempt to place blame for its loss on Sgt McCabe. When the diocese bishop requested its return after the priest was convicted, the whole focus of an internal investigation concentrated on whether or not Sgt McCabe could be blamed, even though he had nothing to do with the investigation.

After an 18-month process, which Sgt McCabe’s barrister opined was “shambolic”, no action was taken against him. The senior counsel appointed to investigate Sgt McCabe’s allegations is expected to include this case in its entirety in his considerations.

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