Garda who in­ves­ti­gated abuse sues Com­mis­sioner and State

Garda says ha­rass­ment in­ten­si­fied after a crim­i­nal com­plaint was made in 2012 Girl’s par­ents com­plained of abuse after find­ing sex­ual ma­te­rial on her phone

The Irish Times - - Home News - MARY CAROLAN

A for­mer garda sergeant who in­ves­ti­gated a claim of child sex­ual abuse by two men, one as­so­ci­ated with a Garda su­per­in­ten­dent, is su­ing the Garda Com­mis­sioner and the State over an al­leged cam­paign of bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment of him in which he al­leges a dif­fer­ent Garda su­per­in­ten­dent played a prom­i­nent role.

Paul Barry al­leges ha­rass­ment of him in­ten­si­fied after a crim­i­nal com­plaint was made in 2012 in re­la­tion to al­leged child sex­ual abuse of a teenage girl by two adult males, one as­so­ci­ated with Supt John Quil­ter, Mr Jus­tice Richard Humphreys said.

In a judg­ment pub­lished this week di­rect­ing the Garda Síochána Om­buds­man Com­mis­sion (GSOC) to make pre-trial dis­cov­ery of doc­u­ments for the dam­ages claim, the judge said it was al­leged two males car­ried out sex­ual acts with a child on sep­a­rate dates when she was aged 13 and 14. The com­plaint was made by the girl’s par­ents, not by her, after they found sex­ual ma­te­rial on her phone.

Supt Michael Comyns told the DPP’s of­fice the girl met the sus­pects on a web­site where she rep­re­sented her­self as be­ing aged 21. The DPP’s of­fice, which saw pho­to­graphic ma­te­ri­als not be­fore the court, thought she looked of le­gal age and di­rected no pros­e­cu­tion, the judge noted.

Sgt Barry, sta­tioned in Fer­moy in 2012, took a state­ment from the girl and claimed he was phoned that same evening by Supt Comyns ask­ing about the al­le­ga­tions and was asked to fax a copy of the state­ment to Togher Garda sta­tion, Cork, which he did.

‘Looked after’

Sgt Barry claimed Supt Comyns told him, be­cause of the sus­pect’s re­la­tion­ship with Supt Quil­ter, the sus­pect would have to be “looked after”, sug­gested the girl had rep­re­sented her­self as be­ing older and in­structed the re­port should record the girl was the in­sti­ga­tor of the sex­ual acts.

Sgt Barry and the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team de­cided to ar­rest both sus­pects si­mul­ta­ne­ously. In the mean­time, ac­cord­ing to state­ments made later to GSOC, Supt Comyns told Supt Quil­ter about the com­plaint against the lat­ter’s as­so­ciate and ap­par­ently passed on some de­tails from the girl’s state­ment, the judge said.

Supt Quil­ter at­tended at his as­so­ciate’s home, ad­vised him of the com­plaint, that he might be ar­rested and should get le­gal ad­vice, the judge said.

Sep­a­rately, Supt Comyns de­cided not to ar­rest the sus­pect but have him in­ter­viewed vol­un­tar­ily, at which point the sus­pect pre­sented a pre­pared state­ment and of­fered no com­ment to ques­tions.

Supt Comyns had ef­fec­tively told the DPP, since he knew per­sons as­so­ci­ated with one of the sus­pects, he wasn’t mak­ing any rec­om­men­da­tion as to pros­e­cu­tion, the judge said. “Go­ing to such pains to ad­ver­tise a show of neu­tral­ity does not sit eas­ily with what seems to have been quite a de­gree of prior pri­vate con­tact be­tween Supts Comyns and Quil­ter, in­clud­ing what GSOC said was on­go­ing phone con­tact.”

Whether there is an ex­pla­na­tion for this “pos­si­ble con­tra­dic­tion” or “any le­gal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for the con­tact with Sgt Quil­ter at all may pre­sum­ably be an­swered at the trial of the ac­tion, he said.

He said Sgt Barry says he did not sup­port the idea of favourable treat­ment of the sus­pect on the ba­sis of be­ing an as­so­ciate of Supt Quil­ter’s and submitted a re­port on July 30th, 2012, rec­om­mend­ing both sus­pects be ar­rested.

‘Sneer­ing’

Sgt Barry claimed the “payback” for not go­ing along with Supt Comyns’s view of the mat­ter be­gan two days later when he was served by Supt Comyns, in a “sneer­ing man­ner”, with a dis­ci­plinary no­tice for be­ing 15 min­utes late for duty.

Sgt Barry made a com­plaint against Supt Comyns in Oc­to­ber 2012 which was re­jected in June 2013 after “some form of in­ves­ti­ga­tion” by Chief Supt Cather­ine Ke­hoe which, on the face of things, did not seem to have been as ef­fec­tive as GSOC’s in­quiries, the judge said.

After GSOC con­sid­ered a com­plaint by Sgt Barry re­ferred to it in 2016, it made a sub­mis­sion to the DPP’s of­fice and the DPP de­cided not to charge Supt Comyns with per­vert­ing the course of jus­tice. Sgt Quil­ter’s ac­tions in giv­ing ad­vance warn­ing to his as­so­ciate did not seem to have been as­sessed un­der that par­tic­u­lar heading, the judge said.

The DPP took the view there was no ev­i­dence to cor­rob­o­rate the claim Sgt Barry was pres­surised to deal with the sus­pect in a par­tic­u­lar way, he noted. It was as­serted Supt Comyns was en­ti­tled to di­rect the sus­pect be in­ter­viewed vol­un­tar­ily, there was in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence any­one leaked in­for­ma­tion to the sus­pect and the ev­i­dence did not es­tab­lish in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tact be­tween the two su­per­in­ten­dents that would con­sti­tute an at­tempt to pervert the course of jus­tice.

Whether all those el­e­ments “square with the known facts” could be an­swered only at trial, the judge said.

GSOC, on foot of Sgt Barry’s com­plaint, came to the view Supt Comyns showed poor judg­ment, com­pro­mised the in­ves­tiga­tive process and his ac­tions were wholly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

A re­port from GSOC was chal­lenged by Supt Comyns in the High Court on grounds, in­ter alia, he was not given an op­por­tu­nity to re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions be­fore the re­port was pro­vided to the Min­is­ter for Jus­tice. Sgt Barry was not put on no­tice of that case. On con­sent of GSOC, the court quashed the find­ings in June 2018.

It was “not en­tirely clear” why the mat­ter was not sent back to GSOC for re­con­sid­er­a­tion in line with fair pro­ce­dures, the judge said.

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