Belfast Telegraph

Whistleblower Garda officer to get full apology over untrue alleged rape report

Whistleblower Garda Sergeant Maurice McCabe is to get a full apology over an untrue report that he allegedly raped a girl.

The officer's solicitor said the family are devastated by unfounded abuse allegations which the state's child protection agency Tusla claimed were created in an "administrative error".

A Commission of Investigation has been launched into the peddling by senior gardai of the child sex assault claims among journalists and politicians in an attempt to blacken Mr McCabe's reputation as a respected whistleblower.

But Sean Costello, the sergeant's solicitor, said more questions are still hanging over the affair.

"On a human level he's absolutely devastated, as is Lorraine his wife, their family," he said.

"The impact is just horrendous, to think that a government agency charged with, as it is, the protection of children and a state run body, would deal with a complaint such as this in the manner outlined."

Tusla said they are in the process of making a full apology to Mr McCabe.

The sergeant's lawyer confirmed that the scandal involves a complaint being made in August 2013 to a counsellor from an outside agency who was working for Tusla.

The record of the complaint - involving a woman who had previously made an unfounded and less serious complaint of abuse about Mr McCabe in 2006 - wrongly stated that there had been an allegation of rape.

Files received by Mr McCabe and his legal team show that the untrue case of alleged sex abuse was referred to local gardai to investigate in 2013 but there is no record of how it was handled.

It was not until May 2014 that the person who initially referred the abuse allegation to gardai then reported that there had been an "administrative error" which led to the complaint including the unfounded claim of rape.

It was not until December 2015 that Mr McCabe was told about it.

Over the time that the false abuse allegations were on record, Sergeant McCabe was at the centre of exposing routine abuse of the penalty point system and also made a series of mostly substantiated reports of negligence and bad policing.

Tusla said it will cooperate fully with Judge Peter Charleton who is leading the inquiry into the allegations.

"It is important to note that when we receive allegations from a child - or from an adult reflecting on when they were a child - that we are obliged to carry out a complete assessment," the agency said.

"We also accept that because of the nature and complexity of these situations, the systems and processes involved in doing this need to be extremely robust.

"In this case, it appears there were some failures and these are the subject of our internal review, the conclusions of which will be made public.

"Tusla regrets that this situation has arisen and deeply apologises for distress caused.

"It does not reflect the high standards that we hold ourselves to and we want to assure the public that we will take whatever steps are required to ensure that nothing like this happens again."

The sex crime allegations were ultimately was used as a slur against Sgt McCabe by at least one senior garda.

That is the basis of Judge Charleton's inquiry.

The smear campaign was revealed by the former head of the Garda press office, Superintendent Dave Taylor, who is currently suspended from the force over the leaking of the names of Roma children taken into social care in 2013.

He told Sgt McCabe about it in the middle of last year and then blew the whistle last September and alleged that Sgt McCabe had been targeted in a secret character assassination by the passing on of false and damaging allegations to selected journalists.

Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan has denied spreading the allegations or any knowledge of the campaign.

Mr Costello told the RTE's Today with Sean O'Rourke that Mr McCabe met Children's Minister Katherine Zappone to discuss the entire Tusla affair two weeks ago, before the initial terms of reference for Judge Charleton's inquiry were drafted.

"It's extraordinary that it should happen. It's extraordinary that an agency such as Tusla and or anybody feeding information into them or referring complaints should make a mistake of that nature," he said.

"As any parent, uncle, aunt, whoever it happens to be, who sees these things written about, in this sense Maurice McCabe, that he posed a potential risk, is just absolutely devastating," Mr Costello said.

The McCabes are considering all options to deal with the scandal, including suing the state.

"They want to know when this will end. They want to know when they can start to live a proper and normal life without wondering whether tomorrow they are going to read something else about Maurice or somebody," said Mr Costello.

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