Retired Garda Paul Barry/Superintendent Michael Comyns/Disclosures Tribunal..

Retired Garda sergeant claims child sex assault investigation was prevented by superintendent​

A retired Garda sergeant claimed that the proper investigation of a child sexual assault allegation was prevented by a superintendent who he says bullied and harassed him, the Disclosures Tribunal has heard.

The former garda claims the investigation found that one of the alleged suspects was allegedly connected to senior gardaí, the tribunal also heard. The DPP later directed no prosecution due to a lack of evidence.

In opening the module on Tuesday morning at Dublin Castle, Sinead McGrath, for the tribunal, read out an opening statement outlining the complaints made by retired Co Cork sergeant Paul Barry.
Mr Barry says that he was being targeted, harassed, isolated, and discredited by his superiors by October 2012, when he made a bullying complaint and then made protected disclosures while he was working in Mitchelstown Garda Station.
Ms McGrath told retired judge Mr Justice Sean Ryan that Mr Barry made nine allegations in total, one of which related to the district officer in Fermoy regarding his conduct in the investigation of an allegation of the sexual assault of a minor made to Mitchelstown Garda Station in February 2012.
During that investigation, Mr Barry claims, investigating members became aware that one of the alleged suspects was allegedly connected to Superintendent John Quilter, the district officer at Midleton Garda District, and to Chief Superintendent Anthony Quilter, who was later the assistant commissioner for the Southern Region.
Ms McGrath said Mr Barry claims he conveyed this information to Superintendent Michael Comyns. Mr Barry's bullying and harassment complaint of 2012 alleged that "the whole investigation was compromised by Supt Comyns' actions and directions".

Internal Garda investigation

A lengthy internal Garda investigation was carried out regarding Supt Comyn's role in the investigation. On November 17, 2015, the DPP directed that no prosecution would be directed on the sexual assault allegation due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Barry, who also made seven protected disclosures, told tribunal investigators that "in my statement to Supt Patrick Lordan, I made an allegation that Supt Comyns had perverted the course of justice in relation to the manner in which he prevented the proper investigation of the rape/sexual assault of a child. He undermined my ability to carry out the investigation in a proper manner by his actions, and his actions were deliberately targeted to frustrate the investigation".

Mr Barry says he was being punished by superiors for not "towing the line" and further alleges that subsequent investigations into other protected disclosures also amounted to a "perversion of the course of justice".

Mr Barry told Diarmaid McGuinness, for the tribunal, that he took up duty in Mitchelstown in January 2000 until June 2016 when he retired on pension. Mr Barry first made his complaints through a bullying and harassment Garda procedure on October 2, 2012, and made his first protected disclosure the same day. In all, Mr Barry complained of eight incidents regarding Supt Comyns.

Mr Barry said Supt Comyns was appointed in July 2010 to Fermoy Garda district and that he "never had such difficulty with a superintendent". "Since day one, I felt he had something against me," Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness. Mr Barry said that he felt this difficulty could have been related back to a 2004 failed attempt to transfer him to Fermoy.

Mr Barry, who reported "non-effective" for duty in August 2012, is also alleging that his illness was not treated as work-related stress, despite his GP recording him medically unfit for work due to "work-related illness".

The Garda system recorded Mr Barry as being absent due to "illness: flu/virus" from the period of August 6, 2012, to March 29, 2013. Any member absent from duty for an "ordinary illness" is put on reduced wages. However, if the member is certified as having an "injury on duty", they are entitled to full pay without allowances for the period of absence.

'Deliberately targeted'

In his statement, Mr Barry said he felt he was being "deliberately targeted" by management in this regard to "punish me financially".

Mr Barry told Mr McGuinness that he had been suffering stress and was sleep deprived when he reported unfit for duty due in large part to his feelings about the sex assault allegation investigation and suffered financial loss due to being listed as having an ordinary illness.

Mr Barry has also complained of his work-related stress not being investigated, of being pressured by management to transfer stations, of implied criticism of his report regarding a fatal fire, of an inquiry made by Garda management to his GP, and of being denied leave days.

Mr Barry will return to give his evidence on Thursday.

An earlier piece on the same case.

Disclosures Tribunal to hear claim senior garda tipped off sex abuse suspect​

The Disclosures Tribunal is to examine claims about the treatment of a garda sergeant who has alleged that a suspect in a child sexual abuse investigation was tipped off about his potential arrest because he was associated with a senior officer.

Paul Barry claims to have been the victim of bullying and alleges this got worse after he began investigating the abuse complaint in 2012.

The tribunal will begin hearings at Dublin Castle in a fortnight into the retired sergeant’s allegations of mistreatment. Several senior gardaí, both serving and retired, are among 29 witnesses due to give evidence in a module which is set to last five weeks.

A number of Mr Barry’s allegations have previously been aired in the High Court, where he has a live personal injuries action against the Garda Commissioner and the Justice Minister. Details of the lawsuit were outlined two years ago in a discovery ruling by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys.

The judge said Mr Barry had alleged that starting in December 2010 he had been the victim of a campaign of bullying, harassment and intimidation in which Superintendent Michael Comyns played a prominent role.

Mr Barry was a sergeant in Mitchelstown, Co Cork, at the time, while Supt Comyns was stationed in Fermoy.

He claims the campaign intensified after a criminal complaint was made in February of alleged sexual abuse of a 13-year-old girl. There were two suspects in the case.

The judge said it was claimed one of the suspects was an associate of then Supt John Quilter and that, prior to being questioned, Mr Quilter told the suspect he might be arrested and should get legal advice. It is also alleged Supt Comyns said the suspect would have to be “looked after” because of his relationship with Supt Quilter. Neither suspect ended up being prosecuted, at the direction of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Supt Comyns and Mr Quilter, who is retired, are both due to give evidence at the tribunal.

The girl at the centre of the case, now an adult, has separately issued civil proceedings against Supt Comyns and Mr Quilter in the High Court.

Just on a side, from the examiner piece, "However, if the member is certified as having an "injury on duty", they are entitled to full pay without allowances for the period of absence." So there is a financial penalty if you get injured at work. That would make a person think.

Garda who investigated child abuse sues Garda Commissioner and State​

A former Garda Sergeant who investigated a claim of child sexual abuse by two men, one associated with a Garda superintendent, is suing the Garda Commissioner and State over an alleged campaign of bullying and harassment of him in which he alleges a different Garda superintendent played a prominent role.

Paul Barry alleges harassment of him intensified after a criminal complaint was made in 2012 in relation to alleged child sexual abuse of a teenage girl by two adult males, one associated with superintendent John Quilter, Mr Justice Richard Humphreys said.

In a judgment published this week directing the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) to make pre-trial discovery of documents for the damages claim, the judge said it was alleged two males carried out sexual acts with a child on separate dates when she was aged 13 and 14. The complaint was made by the girl’s parents, not by her, after they found sexual material on her phone.

Supt Michael Comyns told the DPP’s office the girl met the suspects on a website where she represented herself as being aged 21. The DPP’s office, which saw photographic materials not before the court, thought she looked of legal age and directed no prosecution, the judge noted.

Sgt Barry, stationed in Fermoy in 2012, took a statement from the girl and claimed he was phoned that same evening by Supt Comyns asking about the allegations and was asked to fax a copy of the statement to Togher Garda station, Cork, which he did.

‘Looked after’​

Sgt Barry claimed Supt Comyns told him, because of the suspect’s relationship with Supt Quilter, the suspect would have to be “looked after”, suggested the girl had represented herself as being older and instructed the report should record the girl was the instigator of the sexual acts.

Sgt Barry and the investigation team decided to arrest both suspects simultaneously. In the meantime, according to statements made later to GSOC, Supt Comyns told Supt Quilter about the complaint against the latter’s associate and apparently passed on some details from the girl’s statement, the judge said.

Supt Quilter attended at his associate’s home, advised him of the complaint, that he might be arrested and should get legal advice, the judge said.

Separately, Supt Comyns decided not to arrest the suspect but have him interviewed voluntarily at which point the suspect presented a prepared statement and offered no comment to questions.

Supt Comyns had effectively told the DPP, since he knew persons associated with one of the suspects, he wasn’t making any recommendation as to prosecution, the judge said. “Going to such pains to advertise a show of neutrality does not sit easily with what seems to have been quite a degree of prior private contact between Supts Comyns and Quilter, including what GSOC said was ongoing phone contact.”

Whether there is an explanation for this “possible contradiction” or “any legal justification” for the contact with Sgt Quilter at all may presumably be answered at the trial of the action, he said.

Favourable treatment​

He said Sgt Barry says he did not support the idea of favourable treatment of the suspect on the basis of being an associate of Supt Quilter’s and submitted a report on July 30th, 2012, recommending both suspects be arrested.

Sgt Barry claimed the “payback” for not going along with Supt Comyns’ view of the matter began two days later when he was served by Supt Comyns, in a “sneering manner”, with a disciplinary notice for being 15 minutes late for duty.

Sgt Barry made a complaint against Supt Comyns in October 2012 which was rejected in June 2013 after “some form of investigation” by Chief Supt Catherine Kehoe which, on the face of things, did not seem to have been as effective as GSOC’s inquiries, the judge said.

After GSOC considered a complaint by Sgt Barry referred to it in 2016, it made a submission to the DPP’s office and the DPP decided not to charge Supt Comyns with perverting the course of justice. Sgt Quilter’s actions in giving advance warning to his associate did not seem to have been assessed under that particular heading, the judge said.

The DPP took the view there was no evidence to corroborate the claim Sgt Barry was pressurised to deal with the suspect in a particular way, he noted. It was asserted Supt Comyns was entitled to direct the suspect be interviewed voluntarily, there was insufficient evidence anyone leaked information to the suspect and the evidence did not establish inappropriate contact between the two superintendents that would constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Whether all those elements “square with the known facts” could be answered only at trial, the judge said.

Poor judgement​

GSOC, on foot of Sgt Barry’s complaint, later came to the view Supt Comyns showed very poor judgment, compromised the investigative process and his actions were wholly inappropriate.

A report from GSOC was challenged by Supt Comyns in the High Court on grounds, inter alia, he was not given an opportunity to respond to the allegations before the report was provided to the Minister for Justice. Sgt Barry was not put on notice of that case. On consent of GSOC, the court quashed the findings in June 2018.

It was “not entirely clear” why the matter was not sent back to GSOC for reconsideration in line with fair procedures, the judge said.

Just on a side, from the examiner piece, "However, if the member is certified as having an "injury on duty", they are entitled to full pay without allowances for the period of absence." So there is a financial penalty if you get injured at work. That would make a person think.
I think that is addressed in a subsequent case that the injured party may take.
Despite this case and the serious questions surrounding it, the following was announced in 2019.

SAT, 23 FEB, 2019

CORK city is among four areas nationwide chosen to pilot a new garda structure from next Monday.

The 12-month pilot programme will see all serious crime investigation centralised in Anglesea Street station, while community engagement policing will be directed locally on the northside and southside by two superintendents.

From Monday, the existing districts of Gurranabraher, Mayfield, Togher and Anglesea Street will no longer apply. Instead, Superintendent Michael Maguire will head up community engagement policing for the entire northside, based in Mayfield station. Superintendent Charlie Barry will do likewise for the southside and remain in Togher.

Superintendent Mick Comyns will head up crime investigation for Cork city, taking charge of the division’s detectives. He moves from Mayfield to Anglesea Street.

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