A SENIOR TUSLA manager has told the Charleton Tribunal that it was incompetence and not “something sinister” that led to a false rape allegation being made against garda whistleblower Sergeant Maurice McCabe.
Linda Creamer, a regional service director with the child and family agency, apologised to the McCabe family for the stress they have endured.
The tribunal is looking into the creation and distribution of files by Tusla and the HSE containing false allegations against Sgt McCabe and whether he was the target of a smear campaign.
A Tusla file on Sgt McCabe was opened when a young woman, referred to as Ms D, sought counselling in 2013 about a previously reported allegation investigated by gardaí in 2006. The DPP decided in 2007 against pressing charges in the case due to lack of evidence.
In December 2014, a letter was sent to Sgt McCabe outlining separate allegations from a completely unrelated case, which were incorrectly put in his file.
Ms Creamer told tribunal chairman, Mr Justice Peter Charleton she had been present for the last week listening to evidence. She said that Tusla was in a major transition programme but that this was not to excuse anything that had occurred with Sgt McCabe and his family.
“We are genuinely sorry for the McCabe family to go through such stress, to see such a letter at any time is unacceptable.
“Tusla is in the business of putting families together, not separating them as this could have done,” Ms Creamer said.
She said she did not believe there was “something sinister going on” in relation to Sgt McCabe.
“I believe it’s incompetence in the governance of the file,” she said.
Ms Creamer said that people often saw a file as a series of tasks and didn’t see the faces and the families behind the documents.
Ms Eileen Argue, a social work team leader, told the tribunal that she did not recall any of the events in May 2014, when a garda notification file containing the false allegations was created.
Records were also opened on Sgt McCabe’s children, two of whom were aged over 18 by then.
Ms Argue said it would not have been her practice at that time to open records on children who were over 18.
Mr Michael McDowell SC, on behalf of Sgt McCabe, said Ms Argue had “a very defective memory in relation to these events”.
He put it to Ms Argue that she “wanted to avoid all personal involvement in this as far as you could and produce a misleading account”.
Ms Argue said she did not accept that.
Mr McDowell said that the reason the garda notification was created was because of a Post-It note written by Ms Argue, which directed social worker Laura Connolly to prepare a notification.
Mr McDowell said that once it became apparent that the garda notification was seriously wrong, he could not understand why the events did not stick in Ms Argue’s memory.
“Your agency accused a man of a rape offence in the wrong to his superiors,” Mr McDowell said.
“I can’t give an explanation why none of this sticks in my mind,” Ms Argue said.
Earlier, a social worker with Tusla who was asked to review a file on garda whistleblower Sergeant McCabe had said she was given “a sanitised version”.
Clair Tobin, a social worker with SART, the Sexual Abuse Regional Team in Tusla, was sent the files relating to McCabe after his solicitors wrote to the agency complaining that he was sent a letter in December 2015 stating he was suspected of child abuse.
However several documents within the file which contained a more serious allegation incorrectly added to the McCabe file from an unrelated case were not included when the file was sent to Tobin.
Tobin said that missing from the file was a record of a meeting where the DPP directed no prosecution of McCabe in 2007 because “no criminal offence had been described or disclosed”.
Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Peter Charleton asked the witness: “Given you know what you now know, do you regard yourself as having been sent a sanitised version of the files as opposed to one with all of the reports, all of the events, all of the contents showing clearly?”
Tobin replied “yes”.
“I don’t know if it was their intention, I just can’t explain it. Stuff wasn’t put in the file where it should be.
“It’s not unique to this file, unfortunately. This is not just files in the Cavan region. People fail to put things on files unfortunately. The things that weren’t put on this file were quite significant,” she said.
Ms Tobin told the chairman she did not know if the files were incomplete due to professional negligence or intentionally.
“I don’t know the people in Cavan well enough in terms of their professionalism, in terms of how their practice is updated on a daily basis,” she said.
She said if a file was being sent elsewhere from her office “you make sure everything is on that file that needs to be on that file. And anything you come across in the meantime you forward to the team that has the file.”
Mr Justice Charleton asked Ms Tobin whether she thought the file was incomplete because of “a cover-up” or because of “an instinctive reaction to circle the wagons and pretend that things weren’t as bad as they were, in other words to pretend to yourself as opposed to other people.”
“I really don’t know,” said Ms Tobin. “I think it’s really poor management of the file. I think it should have been allocated to someone straight away when it came through the door.
“We would consider any allegation against a member of An Garda Síochána, a teacher, someone in our own organisation, we need for that to be dealt with extremely sensitively, and I know our practice within SART if something came in they’re immediately allocated and they’re responded to.”
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