Garda Keith Harrison and Judge Peter Charleton
The Disclosures Tribunal released its second interim report.
This report focused solely on matters pertaining to Garda Keith Harrison and his claims regarding Tusla and An Garda Siochana.
Garda Harrison has claimed his working life was difficult since he raised concerns about a garda being involved in the distribution of drugs in Athlone in 2008, and subsequently arrested the same garda for drink-driving in 2009.
It was his contention that the gardai manipulated domestic incidents involving him and his partner Marissa Simms and this resulted in a referral being made to Tusla in February 2014.
The tribunal, overseen by Supreme Court Judge Peter Charleton, did not investigate anything in relation to the matters of 2008 and 2009. It was solely tasked with examining his claims about Tusla and contacts between Tusla and the gardai in respect of Garda Harrison.
In his report, Judge Charleton found that, during the hearings in which their allegations were examined, their claims “simply collapsed” and he rejected all of them in their entirety.
Judge Charleton, who worked as a tribunal counsel during the Morris Tribunal, was unequivocal in his summation:
“All of the allegations of Garda Keith Harrison and Marisa Simms examined by the tribunal are entirely without any validity. They have claimed to have been the victims of a malicious procession of events. That is not so.
“They claimed to have been the victims of a malicious procession of events. That is not so.
“They claimed to have been the victims of others. There is another side to this.
“The allegations which they made must have taken a considerable emotional toll on several of the multiple persons accused by them of very serious misconduct.
“It is appropriate here to exonerate everyone in social services and in policing accused by them of discreditable conduct.
“That is the only possible conclusion to the tribunal’s enquiry. It is also amply corroborated by the supporting evidence analysed in this report.”
For anyone attending or following the hearings of the Garda Harrison module, Judge Charleton’s findings should come as no surprise – especially after Ms Simms’ evidence on September 27.
During the hearing that day Ms Simms said she had no issues with Tusla or the HSE or with the social worker who visited their home whom, she said, acted professionally and appropriately on foot of receiving a referral from the gardai.
It was also put to Ms Simms by Desmond Dockery SC, representing the gardai who took a statement from Ms Simms about Garda Harrison in October 2013 but which Ms Simms subsequently withdrew in January 2014 – that she had no basis for believing that gardai manipulated the HSE in relation to the Tusla referral.
Ms Simms said: “That’s correct.”
On foot of this, Mr Dockery asked Ms Simms, if that was her position, on what grounds did she make a complaint to GSOC last year in which she alleged the gardai abused their authority and made a referral in relation to Ms Simms’ children.
Ms Simms said she based it on her thinking that it wasn’t a coincidence that soon after she withdrew her statement on January 11, 2014, she received a letter from Tusla on February 2, 2014.
At one point, Judge Charleton directly asked Ms Simms: “What are you actually saying about the Garda and the HSE?”
Ms Simms replied: “I’m not inferring anything.”
At another point, Paul Anthony McDermott SC, for Tusla, stated:
“…there is a letter written on behalf of Marisa Simms and Garda Harrison by their solicitors to Dr [Katherine] Zappone, who is the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs; in other words, my client’s Minister…it says: “The manner of intervention of Tusla in our client’s family life is a cause of concern and is by any measure an inexcusable abuse of their position.”
“It was my understanding that the reason we’re here in this module was to investigate that allegation. It appears as though it is no longer being pursued.”
The couple’s claim that Ms Simms’ 38-page statement of October 6, 2013, contained words and allegations not used by her – specifically that Garda Harrison threatened to burn her and the children, which ultimately gave rise to the Tusla referral – fell apart during the hearings.
This occurred when the tribunal saw texts Ms Simms sent to Garda Harrison, on September 29 and 30, crucially before she made her Garda statement, in which she referred to a threat made by him to burn her during an argument.
Separate to Judge Charleton’s findings in relation to his investigation of contacts between Tusla and members of An Garda Siochana in respect of Garda Harrison…
Readers may wish to note that during the final days of the module concerning Garda Harrison, it emerged that documents, which should have been sent to the tribunal by An Garda Siochana earlier, came to light.
These included a note written by Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn – which appeared to link the retired Assistant Commissioner Kieran Kenny to a Garda strategy meeting where it was decided that matters pertaining to the domestic incident between Garda Harrison and Ms Simms would be referred to Tusla and GSOC.
The tribunal had heard that Chief Supt McGinn, who was the liaison officer for the gardai to the Morris Tribunal, had sent this document to Garda HQ but that Garda HQ hadn’t sent it on to the tribunal as it got separated in the process of sending categorised pieces of information to the tribunal.
The emergence of this note and other documents prompted Judge Charleton to make a lengthy speech in which he called for co-operation from the parties involved, saying the tribunal was blowing a bugle “as loud as it possibly can to ask people to just wake up and start helping us, and, in blowing that bugle, I am not saying that there has been any concealment, any deviousness, any conspiracy, but what I am saying is that things could have been done a lot better and they ought to be done now.”
Judge Charleton subsequently found nothing untoward in these documents.
In fact, it should be said, in his report, he said of Chief Supt McGinn:
“Having heard Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn giving evidence over three days it is obvious that she is a woman of nurturing character, highly proud of the organisation which she serves, and determined to do the best for it and for the people which it polices. Her intelligence, diligence and application to duty are admirable.”
But, on the subject of the seeking of documents.
Broadsheet understands that Garda Harrison is awaiting two sets of documents.
One set is in relation to a June 2016 Freedom of Information request for documents from the Department of Justice.
The other is in relation to a court order, made by Mr Justice Kevin Cross in the High Court in May 2017, for the Garda Commissioner to hand over documents related to Garda Harrison pertaining to the timeframe of November 2008 to December 2014.
At that time, Judge Cross gave An Garda Siochana ten weeks to give Harrison the documents.
But this didn’t happen.
On November 20 last, back in the High Court, An Garda Siochana were given another four weeks after they requested time to put the documents in chronological order.
Garda Harrison will be back in the High Court in relation to this on December 18.
Judge Charleton’s 97-page report can be read in full here
Previously: Meanwhile, At The Disclosures Tribunal
Further to Judge Charleton’s report.
A statement issued by Kilfeather & Company Solicitors, on behalf of Garda Harrison, this afternoon.