Lawyers for the State say garda was lying to the point of no return

Garda Catherine McGowan
Garda Catherine McGowan

Lawyers for the State have told a jury that a garda on trial for forging a letter from the Director of Public Prosecutions was lying to the point of no return.

Wicklow Detective Garda Catherine McGowan (48), who is based at Bray Garda Station, has pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to one count of forgery on January 15, 2009 at Bray Garda Station and two counts of using a false instrument at Bray Garda Station and at Harcourt Street Garda Station between June 21 and 22, 2011.

The instrument is alleged to have been a letter from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), dated January 14, 2009, directing that there be no prosecution in a clerical child abuse case.

The letter read: “Dear Sir, I (illegible) to yours. In (illegible) the statement of the complainant…could not possibly form the basis of a prosecution given that the complainant’s allegation of rape is only conjecture.”

The investigation of Gda McGowan’s handling of the case was prompted by the publication of the Murphy Report which investigated the response of church and state authorities to clerical sexual abuse in the Dublin area.

The priest in Gda McGowan’s case was one of the clerics mentioned in the report.

The State finished calling evidence in the case today and barristers for both prosecution and defence have completed their closing speeches to the jury.

Tomorrow Judge Mary Ellen Ring will send the jury of six men and six women out to begin deliberations after she has addressed it.

On the twelfth day of the trial Garda Sergeant Tony Brady told Patrick Marrinan SC, defending, that he conducted exhaustive inquiries which failed to establish any link between the accused and the priest she had been investigating.

Counsel said there was no link which might provide some a motive for her to tell people in 2009 that the DPP had directed no prosecution against the cleric.

In closing the State’s case, Alex Owens SC told the jury that the accused had produced this forgery because she knew the investigation had not been handled correctly and she wanted to fool the people who were now looking into the case.

“When she was approached, she was caught like a rabbit in the headlights. There comes a point when the fibbing has to stop and you reach the point of no return.

"The file had not been submitted to the DPP and she knew it. She had been fibbing to various people, solicitors for the priest and the alleged victim and leading them a merry chase. The matter was coming home to roast, once the people in Harcourt square started looking into the Murphy report”.

Mr Marrinan said in the defence closing speech that there was nothing to suggest that his client was anything other than diligent in her handling of the allegation against the priest.

“She had taken out all the investigative techniques one would expect. She was going about it with enthusiasm,” he said.

He said that when her Detective Inspector, Frank Keenaghan, confronted her in April 2011 with what counsel described as the “sloppiest forgery you’re ever likely see” she refused to take the "easy way out” 

“He was offering her a deal - admit you’ve done wrong. You’re caught but here’s the easy way out. She said no, there isn’t an easy way out. She was told take an hour to think about it. She said ‘I don’t need an hour, I’ve done nothing wrong’.

“This is very strong evidence that she believed that she had done nothing wrong,” he said.

He put it to the jury that someone had a vested interest in making the investigation into this clerical abuse allegation go away in 2009 and that documents which would have assisted his client’s defence had gone missing.