Disclosures tribunal: Former senior Garda 'hurt' and 'disturbed' by complaints

In a letter to the Minister for Justice, the now retired sergeant Paul Barry described Chief superintendent Catherine Kehoe's investigation as a "sham"
Disclosures tribunal: Former senior Garda 'hurt' and 'disturbed' by complaints

Paul Neilan

A retired senior garda officer has told the Disclosures Tribunal that she was "hurt" and "disturbed" by a sergeant's allegations that her investigation into his bullying and harassment complaints was a "sham".

In a letter to the Minister for Justice, the now retired sergeant Paul Barry described Chief superintendent Catherine Kehoe's investigation as a "sham" and alleged that the "inordinate" amount of time taken to conclude inquiries amounted to "perverting the course of justice".

The tribunal is investigating claims made by Mr 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 Michael 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". After an internal Garda investigation, the bullying and harassment complaints were not upheld by investigators, headed by former Chief Supt Kehoe.

On Tuesday, Chief Supt Kehoe told Mícheál P O'Higgins SC, for An Garda Síochána, that she only learned from Tribunal documents that Mr Barry had accused her of targeting him by allegedly taking an "inordinate" amount of time investigating his complaints arising from a statement he made in October 2012.

Chief Supt Kehoe said that there were "three arms" in investigating the complaints of Mr Barry, all of which were finally concluded in May 2016.

She was appointed in February 2013 to investigate Mr Barry's complaints of bullying and targeting of him within the force after he made a protected disclosure.

She was also tasked with investigating whether or not Supt Comyns had interfered in the child sexual assault investigation and whether or not disciplinary sanctions should be applied regarding Supt Comyns.

Parallel investigations

Chief Supt Kehoe told Sinead McGrath BL, for the tribunal, that she began the three investigations "in parallel" but took charge of the bullying and harassment complaint herself, as there was a 28-day time-limit on her report, according to Garda regulations.

Chief Supt Kehoe said that a criminal complaint would "always" take precedent but that she had appointed other senior gardaí to investigate the February 2012 complaint regarding both the allegation of sexual assault and the discipline investigation.

Chief Supt Kehoe said the investigations were held up by Mr Barry taking a parallel civil action, the movement of investigating members to outside her division and by her seeking clarity from Garda HQ regarding whether or not she should be investigating the criminal and discipline matters after completing her bullying and harassment file.

The witness said that interviews regarding her investigations opened up "new lines of inquiry" and that she progressed all matters "as expeditiously as possible."

In May 2013, Chief Supt Kehoe completed her file regarding Mr Barry's bullying and targeting complaints but did not uphold any of his eight issues.

In August 2015, Chief Supt Kehoe had sent her file to the DPP on the criminal matter - no prosecution was taken due to lack of evidence. Finally, in May 2016, Chief Supt Kehoe submitted her report completing all matters and found no breach of discipline by Supt Comyns.

Serious allegation

Chief Supt Kehoe told David Perry BL, for Mr Barry, that the length of time was necessary to investigate "a very serious allegation" against a senior Garda and that it was "essential to do it as thoroughly as possible" but that she could not complete the work any faster.

She said that she was not aware at the time of her investigations that Mr Barry had made a protected disclosure and that she only found out he had done so through papers sent to her by the tribunal in 2020.

Chief Supt Kehoe told Mr O'Higgins that she was made aware by the tribunal that Mr Barry had also written a letter to the Minister of Justice in January 2016 describing her investigations as a "sham" that "perverted the course of justice".

She found the allegation made by Mr Barry against her "very disturbing, totally unfounded and hurtful". Chief Supt Kehoe said that in her 36 years of service she was never a "nine-to-five" worker, saying that she applied herself in a "hard-working, thorough and diligent manner" in those years.

The tribunal continues on Thursday before retired judge Chairman Sean Ryan.

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