GSOC queried senior garda's categorisation of complaint against whisteblower, tribunal hears

A senior garda decision to categorise a domestic disturbance complaint against a garda whistleblower as an incident causing serious harm or death was later questioned by the Garda Ombudsman.

The October 2013 complaint by Marisa Simms against her partner Garda Keith Harrison included allegations that he had threatened to "burn her" and "bury her".

Superintendent Eugene McGovern had told the Charleton Tribunal that he regarded the complaint as serious enough to warrant referral to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) under a provision relating to incidents where a garda has caused serious harm or death.

Supt McGovern was the officer in charge of the Milford district in Co. Donegal at the time, where Garda Harrison lived.

On 6 October 2013 Ms Simms made her statement to gardaí about Garda Harrison. Gardaí had previously received reports from Ms Simms' mother and sister about the threats, which took place during a late night argument following which Ms Simms left the house she was living in with Garda Harrison.

In the current module the Disclosures tribunal, chaired by Mr Justice Peter Charlton, is looking at contacts between gardaí and the HSE/Tusla relating to Garda Harrison. He alleges these contacts amount to an abuse of power.

Following the statement from Ms Simms, a garda conference attended by several senior officers in the Donegal division was held.

Superintendent McGovern said a decision was taken at the meeting to refer the statement to GSOC.

Superintendent McGovern said the only question was whether the referral would be under Section 85 or Section 102. The latter type is made in cases where a Garda has been involved in an incident causing serious harm or death.

Superintendent McGovern said that as far as he was concerned serious harm had been caused to Ms Simms "from an emotional and psychological point of view".

He said that Ms Simms' statement contained "more than simple domestic incidents, there were serious criminal matters in that statement".

"If there was a more serious incident in the future, of course, we would be criticised," Superintendent McGovern said.

The ultimate decision was to make a section 102 referral. Superintendent McGovern testified that he was later contacted by Darren Wright, a Senior Investigating Officer with GSOC, who told him the complaint might not be a Section 102 referral.

Ms Simms later informed GSOC in writing that she did not wish to make a complaint, and later withdrew her statement to Gardaí.

Superintendent McGovern said every officer at the conference meeting had a reason to be there.

Superintendent Michael Finan attended because Garda Harrison was stationed in his district. Inspector Goretti Sheridan had taken the statement from Ms Simms, he said.

Detective Inspector Patrick O'Donnell was looking into separate threats that had been made against Garda Harrison, and Garda Carl Campbell was the liaison with Garda internal affairs department. The alleged incidents had taken place in Superintendent McGovern's district, and Chief Superintendent Terry McGinn was the senior officer in the division.

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