From top: Crime journalist Paul Williams (centre), of the Irish Independent, and Det Supt John O’Reilly attending the Disclosures Tribunal last Summer
Further to the release of the Disclosures Tribunal report yesterday,
Justice Peter Charleton took time in his report to concentrate on the work of journalist Paul Williams, of the Irish Independent.
Mr Williams wrote several articles about Ms D and her 2006 “dry humping” allegation against Sgt Maurice McCabe in April and May 2014 – after interviewing Ms D in March 2014.
The central focus of the series of articles was Ms D’s unhappiness with the Garda investigation into her 2006 complaint, which was carried out by Supt Noel Cunningham.
In 2007, the DPP ruled that there was no basis for any prosecution in regards to Ms D’s complaint and Judge Charleton, having read Supt Cunningham’s investigation report, repeatedly told the tribunal that his investigation was “a model of efficiency and fairness”.
Mr Williams didn’t name Sgt McCabe or Ms D but many witnesses at the tribunal said they knew the articles were about Sgt McCabe.
Sgt McCabe himself told the tribunal he knew they were about him and received phone calls from people relaying the same.
The provenance of Mr Williams’ articles came about via Det Supt John O’Reilly, a friend of Mr Williams, who was the conduit for contact between Mr D and Mr Williams.
Det Supt O’Reilly knew Mr Williams through work as Mr Williams, Judge Charleton noted, “had spent a considerable time under police protection”.
Det Supt O’Reilly was a family friend of the D family for many years.
The tribunal heard differing evidence from Mr D and Det Supt O’Reilly as to who suggested to whom that Ms D talk to Mr Williams – after Irish Mail on Sunday journalist Debbie McCann and Irish Sun journalist Eavan Murray had called to the D house – but the judge found:
“The tribunal does not accept that any idea about talking to the media or any idea as to a suitable person within the media came from anyone other than Mr D.”
Det Supt O’Reilly told the tribunal in evidence that he subsequently believed that his setting up of contact between Mr Williams and Mr D was “unwise”.
But Judge Charleton went further, finding:
“It did no service to anyone. It caused further and completely unjustified pain to Maurice McCabe and to his family. The right advice from Detective Superintendent O’Reilly would have been to leave matters that belong in the past to the past; that is even supposing that some event had occurred.
“It should be remembered that he was a policeman. Why did Detective Superintendent O’Reilly not support the integrity and thoroughness of his honest police inquiries? Why did he imagine that there could be anything wrong with the investigation?
“Given that a thorough investigation had been undertaken, and that over fifteen years had passed since the time of the alleged event, nothing positive could have come out of this. Nothing positive did come of it.”
Paul Williams eventually interviewed Ms D on March 8, 2014.
The tribunal accepted Mr Williams’ evidence that when he met Ms D in March 2014, he had not heard about the false rape allegation which had been erroneously created back in August 2013 and was, in March 2014, sitting in a cabinet file in TUSLA.
He only knew what Ms D told him which was the original 2006 allegation.
Mr Williams’ first article published on April 12, 2014, headlined “Girl wants new probe into alleged sex assault by Garda” detailed Ms D’s dissatisfaction with the 2006/2007 investigation, as she saw it.
Judge Charleton criticised Mr Williams for not including input or seeking any response from either Sgt McCabe or Supt Noel Cunningham, who investigated the 2006 complaint, for the article.
Judge Charleton found:
“Given the widespread nature of the rumours, it was clear to people who knew about the allegation that it referred to Maurice McCabe and alleged a poor investigation. Certainly, almost everyone who actually read these articles, whether in journalism or police work, put two and two together. There would also have been a not insignificant number of them in Garda Headquarters.”
On April 15, 2014, Ms Williams published a second article about Ms D.
Headlined “Alleged Garda sex victim wants to meet Martin”, it was about how Ms D wanted to meet Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin.
After this article, Mr Williams facilitated this meeting between Ms D and Mr Martin.
On April 16, 2014, his third artlcle headlined “FF leader to meet woman at centre of claims she was abused by Garda” was published.
And on April 30, 2014, Mr Williams collected Ms D from a train station and drove her to the Dáil where she met Mr Martin.
On May 3, 2014, a fourth article appeared headlined “Kenny to set up probe into Garda sex abuse claims”.
Mr Williams said this was based on him getting confirmation from Mr Martin’s office that a letter in relation to his meeting with Ms D had been passed on to the office of An Taoiseach.
Judge Charleton found:
“While it had been, this did not mean that An Taoiseach was proposing to do anything about it and so the article could, be described as speculative.”
And, again, Judge Charleton stated Mr Williams should have contacted either Sgt McCabe or those who were involved in the investigation of Ms D’s complaint in 2006/2007, saying:
“They would have constituted unwelcome attention in the shape of a clear identification of Maurice McCabe by those who were aware of the Ms D matter and the return of an allegation long since dealt with.”
Although Mr Williams did not make contact with either Sgt McCabe or Supt Cunningham before writing his series of articles, Mr Williams did speak with the then Garda press officer Supt Dave Taylor.
There was conflicting evidence given to the tribunal about their interaction.
Supt Taylor told the tribunal that Mr Williams, in March 2014, rang him up and said “guess where I am?” before telling Supt Taylor he was at the D household, that Sgt McCabe had ruined Ms D’s life and that he was going to write a damaging article about Sgt McCabe.
Supt Taylor claimed he passed this information on to then Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan and then Deputy Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
Mr Williams had denied this when he gave evidence and said he had asked Supt Taylor a set of questions about the Ms D case and was told by Supt Taylor that “the investigation had taken place, a file has been sent to the DPP and there were no charges”.
Judge Charleton accepted Mr Williams’ evidence and rejected that of Supt Taylor, saying:
“There would not be the slightest reason for Paul Williams to curry some kind of favour with the Garda Press Office by gleefully announcing the news that bad news was imminent for Maurice McCabe. That does not fit with the evidence, or with the character, of Paul Williams.”
Ms D made a complaint about the investigation into her 2006/2007 allegation to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission on April 29, 2014 – days before, unbeknownst to Ms D, the false rape allegation which was sitting in a cabinet file in TUSLA was randomly plucked out and circulated to An Garda Síochána and eventually presented as a true allegation to the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.
It remained in Garda HQ until February 2017.
The tribunal heard that the idea of making a complaint to GSOC was something Ms D had discussed with Mr Williams during their interview in March 2014.
But, Judge Charleton found “he [Williams] did not in any way or at all lead her into making this further complaint”.
Mr Williams was one of the 12 journalists whom Supt Taylor claimed he “negatively briefed” against Sgt McCabe.
As mentioned above, Judge Charleton accepted Mr Williams evidence – that Supt Taylor told him that a complaint had been made, a file went to the DPP and there were no charges – but did not find that Supt Taylor “negatively briefed” Mr Williams.
Judge Charleton found:
“While Superintendent Taylor claims, in typically laconic form used in relation to any evidence that might have supported his claims, that he briefed Paul Williams negatively against Maurice McCabe, no details of this, as usual, were supplied and the tribunal does not believe him.”
Dublin City University professor Colum Kenny
On March 2, 2014 – just over a month before Mr Williams’ first article on Ms D and days before Mr Williams first met Ms D – journalist and Dublin City University professor Colum Kenny wrote an article in the Sunday Independent about Sgt McCabe and how he had been wrongly blamed for the disappearance of a seized computer central to a sex abuse case.
In the article, he made the following reference to the Ms D allegation:
“It is understood that Sgt McCabe has also been subjected to a serious accusation by a senior garda that was subsequently referred by gardai to the DPP, who found no basis on which to pursue the matter.”
When Mr Kenny gave evidence to the tribunal, he indicated that when sending the March 2 article for publication to the Sunday Independent, he had sent a document to INM’s lawyers outlining the DPP’s full directions against Sgt McCabe in order to verify what he was writing.
The tribunal didn’t specifically hear what this document was or specifically to whom it was sent or even specifically when it was sent.
Mr Kenny wasn’t asked these details.
Judge Charleton made no comment on this document in his report.
The report can be read in full here
Previously: Maurice McCabe And INM: Part 1