Clair Tobin, centre, and Linda Creamer, right, arriving at the Disclosures Tribunal this morning
At the Disclosures Tribunal in Dublin Castle.
It is continuing to hear evidence about how a 2006 allegation of inappropriate touching by a Ms D against Sgt Maurice McCabe became conflated with a 2013 allegation of rape concerning another person entirely and how this false allegation of rape was circulated between the counselling service Rian, Tusla and An Garda Siochana.
It’s part of a wider investigation into allegations of a smear campaign orchestrated by former Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan with the knowledge of Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan against Sgt Maurice McCabe.
A short-ish timeline of some of the evidence heard to date can be read here.
Yesterday and this morning, the tribunal heard evidence from regional social worker Clair Tobin who has worked with the Sexual Assault Response Team since June 2016. She previously worked with Tusla.
The Sexual Assault Response Team was set up in 2016, the tribunal heard, in response to the number of retrospective allegations which were unallocated and on waiting lists to obtain an allocated social worker.
Readers will recall Sgt McCabe’s flawed case was such a case.
Ms Tobin was allocated Sgt McCabe’s case in August 2016 – some eight months after Kay McLoughlin, of Tusla, sent Sgt McCabe a Barr letter (a letter which notifies an alleged abuser of the allegation made against them) in December 2015 which stated Tusla was investigating Sgt McCabe in relation to an allegation of rape which did not pertain to him at all.
This Barr letter was sent after Ms McLoughlin’s superior Gerry Lowry – who knew this allegation was incorrect – failed to open an email attachment which contained Ms Loughlin’s draft letter containing the fall allegation in May 2015.
Readers will recall that Sean Costello, SC, for Sgt McCabe, wrote back to Ms McLoughlin to say the allegation was wholly untrue in January 2016 but Tusla did not respond to Mr Costello until June 20, 2016.
Further to this, Ms Tobin, of SART, has given evidence to the tribunal about its review of the case and Tusla’s handling of the case.
She explained the purpose of their review yesterday to the tribunal, saying:
“It probably had a dual function in terms of identifying what had or hadn’t happened on the file, but also to indicate what needed to happen.”
Asked if she had any document or guidance in writing, which set out the purpose of the review, she said: No.
Yesterday, Ms Tobin told the tribunal that, on June 27 – seven days after Tusla finally responded to Mr Costello – she and her co-worker, Lisa O’Loghlen, met with MIchael Cunningham, who was the then duty social work team leader in Cavan, and he gave them a number of files and a synopsis of the files.
These files included those of Ms D and Sgt McCabe.
Yesterday, she told the tribunal:
“I suppose when we took the file we were quite, I suppose, for want of a better word, horrified as to how the case had been managed… I suppose our role within SART was to deal with the allegation and the assessment of the allegation and we felt that there was a bigger issue behind that.”
Yesterday and this morning, Diarmuid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, went through a list of documents pertaining to Ms D and Sgt McCabe and, as he went through them, he asked Ms Tobin if she had seen the said documents in the files they were given.
Some she did, some she didn’t, the tribunal heard.
For example, based on the information given to Ms Tobin, she was unaware that a Garda notification was made in respect of Sgt McCabe by Laura Connolly in 2014. Readers will recall it was Ms Connolly who also created intake records on Sgt McCabe’s then four children, two of whom were adults, under the direction of Eileen Argue.
Ms Tobin told the tribunal she didn’t know of the Garda notification until RTE’s Prime Time aired the matter in February 9, 2017.
In addition, Ms Tobin said the files she was given didn’t make clear that the DPP had instructed no prosecution on the basis that no criminal offence had taken place.
The tribunal heard the minutes of a management meeting on April 21, 2007, in which it was noted that the file returned from the DPP no prosecution, was not in the file given to Ms Tobin.
This morning, as she continued to give evidence under cross-examination, from Michael McDowell SC, Ms Tobin was asked about the material that was and was not on the file.
Ms Tobin said she couldn’t comment on whether some of the material had possibly been deleted from the file or just wasn’t on the file. But she agreed that some material had not been forwarded to her.
Asked if realising this later made her feel more horrified in regards to the handling of the case by Gerry Lowry – Tusla’s area manager – she conceded that yes, she was more concerned and more horrified.
Mr McDowell sought to confirm with Ms Tobin that it couldn’t have been the case that she just skipped through the file and missed crucial documents.
“I’m very careful and given the gravity of what was on the file, I would have made sure I read everything on the file.”
Mr McDowell also asked if there was no evidence in the file from Mr Lowry in which he admitted something had gone very, very wrong and was accepting of his role. Ms Tobin agreed.
Judge Peter Charleton, who’s overseeing the proceedings, asked Ms Tobin if, given what she knows now, did she think she had been sent a sanitised version of the file, as opposed to the file with all the “warts” and “defects”
She said: Yes.
Asked, why this might have been the case, she said:
“I don’t know if it was through intention. I can’t explain it. Stuff wasn’t put on the file when it should have been.”
Ms Tobin added that this is not necessarily unique to this case as people do fail to put things on file but she said items missing from this file were significant.
Judge Charleton asked Ms Tobin if she was aware of the phrase “covering yourself in paper” and proposed that it can sometimes mean removing paper that’s embarrassing.
Ms Tobin said she couldn’t tell if it was professional negligence or intentional and said she couldn’t speak for Cavan’s professional practice of day-to-day operations but she said:
“In my own practice, you make sure everything on that file, that should be on that file, is on that file.”
Mr Charleton said the missing documents, in the worse case, could indicate a cover-up, or secondly, though not as bad, could indicate an “instinctive reaction to circle the wagons and to pretend things weren’t as bad as they were”. He wondered if Ms Tobin had a third category.
“I really don’t know. It’s really poor management of the file. I think it should have been allocated to deal with straight away.”
She added that if such allegation is made against a member of An Garda Siochana, a teacher or someone in her own organisation – in SART, the matter would be immediately responded to and allocated.
Linda Creamer, service director for Dublin North East with Tusla, is also giving evidence today.
She told the tribunal that the matter should never have been handed over to SART and that she believed somebody in the role of area manager, such as Gerry Lowry, should have been able to handle it.
Asked if she believed it was a case of a “hot potato” being handed over to SART, Ms Creamer said:
“Well they believe SART had more skills then they had. My view would be the pincipal social manager and area manager should be well able to deal with a file like this.”
She said the reason given about skills was not a valid reason to hand it over.
Ms Creamer was also asked if she believed SART was given a sanitised file, she said she didn’t believe anything “sinister” was going on but that there was incompetence in relation to the governance of the file and that there might have been an effort to pass it on for somebody else to take responsibility.
Asked to comment on the possibility of any Garda influence on how the matter was handled, Ms Creamer said that it would be easier for her to agree with that possibility but that she believed it was “absolute incompetence”.
“I don’t believe there was collusion.”
Ms Creamer also said that she would never allow for child intake forms to be created on Sgt McCabe’s children without speaking with Sgt McCabe first.
Eileen Argue, whom the tribunal has already heard directed Laura Connolly to create these intake forms in 2014, will be giving evidence this afternoon.
Previously: Disclosures Tribunal: At A Glance
After Ms Creamer was finished giving evidence, she said the following:
“Chairperson, if I could just take the opportunity, it’s — I have been here for the week listening to the evidence and I just want to say that Tusla is in a major transition programme. I am not making that as an excuse for what has happened, but we genuinely are extremely sorry to the McCabe family.
“To go through such stress and receive such a letter at such a time – at any time – is completely unacceptable. And we are in the business of putting families together and supporting families to be together, we are not in the business of trying to destroy families.
“And stress like this could have gone that route, so I just want to acknowledge Tusla’s apology for what has happened to the McCabes and we will cooperate with anything else in the future. Thank you.”