‘You were keen to hitch your wagon to Sgt McCabe’s train’
Garda rejects accusation of trying to link penalty-points scandal to his own case
WHISTLEBLOWER garda Keith Harrison has denied trying to link his workplace issues to those of Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
He told the Disclosures Tribunal he was his ‘own person’ who would make up his own mind, ‘and do things the way I see is best’.
During a day of cross-examination, Micheál O’Higgins SC, for the Garda Commissioner and the force, said to him: ‘You have chosen to interpret the reasonable application of discipline in An Garda Síochána with an invented allegation of bullying.’
The Disclosures Tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charleton, is exploring Garda Harrison’s claim that he was a victim of a campaign of Garda intimidation after arresting a fellow officer for drink driving in Athlone in 2009.
He said he was targeted by senior Garda management after his move to Donegal, who involved social workers in his family life after ‘untrue’ allegations of domestic abuse were made against him.
Mr O’Higgins noted that in 2014, Sgt McCabe was ‘all over the media’ for his whistleblowing concerning penalty points.
He said: ‘You were keen to hitch your wagon to Sgt McCabe’s train, would that be fair?’ Garda Harrison replied: ‘No.’ He was asked why he and his solicitor had given television and radio interviews, and written to Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone, if not to have his case included in a tribunal.
‘Are you suggesting I did this just to get onto television?’ the garda responded.
Mr O’Higgins said Garda Harrison was angry that his complaints had been ignored by the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister.
‘When did the lightbulb go off in your mind that you were a Maurice McCabe, who was somewhat confused that Tusla had arrived at your door?’ counsel asked.
The witness replied: ‘I don’t see myself as Maurice McCabe. I am Keith Harrison, I am my own person. I make up my own mind and do things the way I see is best.’
Mr O’Higgins asked if he had pressurised his partner, Marissa Simms, to co-ordinate her story with his, and also asked him to explain his apparent threats to burn her and bury her sister as a figure of speech.
He said Garda Harrison had put his partner into an ‘impossible position’ with a ‘ridiculous story’.
‘Absolutely not,’ replied the garda.
Earlier, the tribunal heard that the garda could have resolved his issues with child and family agency Tusla for the price of a stamp.
Garda Harrison agreed that he never wrote to, or contacted, Tusla about his concerns that senior gardaí had involved the agency in his family life.
Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for Tusla, said: ‘Consider the cost of a tribunal of inquiry, which can cost millions, versus the cost of a postage stamp.’
Garda Harrison replied: ‘With respect, in February 2014 I could never have thought that I’d be talking about various intimate details of my family life.’
He agreed he had received a letter from Tusla, following a home visit, in which the agency stated that all was well with the family.
Tusla’s case, which began with a Garda referral following a domestic row involving Garda Harrison and his partner Marissa Simms, part of which was allegedly witnessed by her two children, was then closed.
Garda Harrison told the tribunal that he believed gardaí leaned on Tusla to intervene in his family life for malicious reasons. Mr McDermott said the allegation was incorrect and did not stand up to scrutiny. Gardaí also dispute the allegation.
Garda Harrison insisted that he was in no doubt that Tusla was manipulated. He said it was no coincidence that a social worker visited their home in February 2014, shortly after his partner, Ms Simms, withdrew a statement made against him.
He said it was unusual that there was a gap of three months between the complaint and the visit. Mr McDermott said Garda Harrison had sought to portray Tusla’s visit as an abuse of power. But he said records showed Garda Harrison understood perfectly well what the concerns were and he successfully engaged with them.
The tribunal has previously
‘I make up my own mind’ ‘Pulse is similar to a social media site’
heard that Garda Harrison checked his partner’s record on the Pulse computer system 23 times between 2008 and 2012.
Mr O’Higgins said yesterday that this was ‘somewhat obsessive’.
Garda Harrison said: ‘Pulse is similar to a social media site.’
He admitted checking Pulse several times in 2008, when he and Ms Simms were in contact, but before they began a relationship.
‘I may have looked out of curiosity, no other reason,’ he said. He insisted that the practice of gardaí checking Pulse without a valid reason was ‘widespread’ at the time, but that it was now being clamped down on.
Judge Charleton said he had understood Garda Harrison’s case to be that his checks on Ms Simms, after they began their relationship in 2011, were because he believed the couple were under surveillance. He asked why Garda Harrison had thought this.
He replied: ‘I had raised serious issues in the Westmeath division. After that I believed I was being monitored.’
He said there was ‘always a fear’ that gardaí would discover that Ms Simms was the sister of a man who had killed a young Buncrana garda in a collision following a high-speed car chase.
‘My suspicion was that we were being watched,’ he said.
He told the tribunal his partner had never wanted involvement with a Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission or HSE investigation, and had only made a Garda statement of complaint against him in October 2013 after a three-hour ‘chat’ with gardaí.
Testimony: Garda Keith Harrison and his partner Marissa Simms
Whistleblower: Sergeant Maurice McCabe