Garda Superintendent tells tribunal allegations against him had a 'huge' effect

Garda Superintendent who a sergeant accused of "covering up" a child sex abuse allegation says he was prevented from doing his job due to conditions of a medical certificate issued to the sergeant
Garda Superintendent tells tribunal allegations against him had a 'huge' effect

Paul Neilan

A Garda Superintendent who a sergeant accused of "covering up" a child sex abuse allegation says he was prevented from doing his job due to the conditions of a medical certificate issued to the sergeant, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

In a letter to his superiors, Supt Michael Comyns wrote it was "just not possible" to have a sergeant in a district that did not report to a superintendent and that this would "create a very serious and unworkable precedent" in An Garda Síochána, the tribunal also heard.

Allegation

The tribunal has heard from retired Gda Sgt Paul Barry, formerly of Mitchelstown Garda Station in Co Cork, who made a 2012 complaint that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by Supt Comyns, who he says also bullied and harassed him. The Director of Public Prosecutions later directed there be no prosecution of the child sex assault allegation.

The former sergeant claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was connected to two senior gardaí, former Supt John Quilter and then Chief Supt Anthony Quilter, the tribunal has also heard. After a criminal investigation, the DPP directed in November 2015 there be no prosecution relating to Sgt Barry's claim that Supt Comyns had perverted the course of justice, due to a lack of evidence.

The tribunal has heard that Supt Comyns, who denies allegations of bullying and targeting Mr Barry, has described the complaints as "unfounded and vexatious".

'Huge' effect

On Tuesday at Dublin Castle, Supt Comyns told Patrick Marrinan SC, for the tribunal, that allegations against him of bullying and breaches of discipline, along with the criminal complaint regarding the allegation of perverting the course of justice, had a "huge" effect on him "personally and professionally".

Supt Comyns told Mr Marrinan that he "could not do my job" because of a medical certificate issued to Mr Barry by his GP saying he could return to work providing that he did not come in contact with Supt Comyns or have to visit Fermoy Garda Station, where Supt Comyns was based.

Supt Comyns said that this amounted to him being unable to perform his duties and that the ongoing situation meant garda authorities were "undermining" his authority by their inaction.

Mr Marrinan asked if Supt Comyns felt "let down by the organisation" and was told: "I couldn't do my job as district officer if Sgt Barry can't do his".

Return to work

Mr Barry has told the tribunal that he returned to work on March 29th, 2013, after financial concerns forced him to do so. However, Supt Comyns said that the conditions of the certificate made their situation "unworkable". Mr Barry was unfit for duty for a total of 239 days from August 6th, 2012.

Supt Comyns told Mr Marrinan that the conditions "meant, taken at face value, that I couldn't go to Mitchelstown while Sgt Barry was working and Sgt Barry couldn't come to Fermoy Garda Station", where regular meetings were held.

Supt Comyns said he wrote to his superior, Ch Supt Gerard Dillane, querying how either he or Sgt Barry could do their jobs and describing the situation as "unworkable". Supt Comyns agreed with Mr Marrinan that this was a "unique and stressful" situation.

Supt Comyns said that without his oversight, due to the lack of communication with Sgt Barry, garda investigations would have had to operate without supervision because he (Supt Comyns) "couldn't question what was happening or what needed to be done regarding ongoing investigations".

Supt Comyns said it was "just not possible" to have a sergeant in a district that did not report to a superintendent and that this would "create a very serious and unworkable precedent" in An Garda Síochána.

Transfer

Supt Comyns said the only option he could see to solve matters was for Sgt Barry to be transferred but that he did not have the power to transfer Sgt Barry outside of his district. Mr Barry twice successfully appealed transfers away from Mitchelstown.

Regarding a separate complaint, Supt Comyns said he did not target Mr Barry over denying him annual leave because Mr Barry had submitted to him covering sergeants that were not working on the days requested.

Supt Comyns further denied any targeting of Mr Barry when issuing a Regulation 10 warning about being late for duty. The superintendent said that Mr Barry and another garda were disciplined on the same day because both men arrived in the same car 20 minutes late for duty.

One of Sgt Barry's nine complaints relates to him falling "physically sick" at the Irish Open golf tournament when Supt Comyns took over from Supt John Quilter to take command of a "huge policing operation".

Supt Comyns told Mr Marrinan that Supt Quilter had leave booked in advance of the tournament and that he was scheduled to take control of the event that required gardaí from different districts to be on duty.

Supt Comyns said that members were not selected individually for duty, that he did not see Mr Barry over the course of two days and that Inspector Eoghan Healy was appointed to run the traffic policing operation over Mr Barry.

Allegations

The following year, in January 2015, Fermoy Garda District was investigating two separate rape allegations that happened within days of each other and a case conference was called. However, Mr Barry did not attend the meeting and claims that he was not notified but has told the tribunal that even if he was notified he could not attend due to the conditions of the medical certificate.

Supt Comyns said that Mr Barry could not supervise the investigating members if he did not know "what the conference was about and what was required to be done".

The next month, February 2015, Supt Comyns wrote to Ch Supt Dillane saying that he was being "prevented in performing his duty" due to the situation with Mr Barry, which was being "ignored" by An Garda Síochána who had not given him any "backing for two years".

In September 2015, before he was cleared of Mr Barry's allegations, Supt Comyns wrote to investigating gardaí in response to a query about whether or not their disciplinary investigation should be put back pending the DPP's decision on the criminal matter. Supt Comyns responded urging members to complete their investigations as there had been "a huge effect on my personal and private life" regarding the 2012 complaints and that he wished matters to be concluded "without delay".

Supt Comyns will continue to give his evidence to the tribunal on Wednesday.

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