Lawsuit | 

Alleged child sex abuse victim sues amid claims garda tipped off suspect

Lawsuit alleges conspiracy to pervert the course of justice after probe led to no charges being brought
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Shane Phelan

A woman who alleged she was sexually abused by two men when she was aged 13 and 14 has issued civil proceedings following claims one of the suspects was tipped off by a garda superintendent about his potential arrest.

Neither the man, described by a judge as an “associate” of the superintendent, nor the other suspect ended up being charged following an investigation in Co Cork in 2012.

Now in her 20s, the woman has initiated a High Court action seeking damages and a declaration her rights as an alleged victim were not vindicated by the State and that there was a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Her case comes on the back of allegations made in another lawsuit by retired garda sergeant Paul Barry, who was part of the investigation team.

He claims he was harassed by a senior officer after disagreeing with how the probe was being handled.

In his lawsuit, it is alleged Superintendent John Quilter visited the home of one of the suspects, an associate of the superintendent, advised him of the complaint, that he might be arrested and that he should get legal advice.

The retired sergeant also alleged Supt Michael Comyns told him the suspect would have to be “looked after” because of his relationship with Supt Quilter.

He further alleged Supt Comyns instructed that the investigation report should record the girl was the instigator of the sexual acts.

The Director of Public Prosecutions decided not to bring charges against either suspect.

The woman is now suing Mr Quilter, who retired from the force in 2019, Supt Comyns, the Garda Commissioner, the Justice Minister, Ireland and the Attorney General. The case was initiated in June and has yet to come before the court.

A garda spokesperson declined to comment.

Mr Barry’s allegations were outlined in a discovery motion ruling made by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys last year. This revealed there was an internal garda investigation and a subsequent inquiry by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

The internal investigation found there was insufficient information to prove anyone leaked information to one of the suspects.

Another issue raised by Mr Barry is that he recommended both suspects be arrested, but Supt Comyns decided not to arrest the suspect associated with Supt Quilter and that this man was to be interviewed voluntarily.

The suspect subsequently presented a prepared statement and offered no comment to all questions.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the DPP took the view there was no evidence to corroborate the allegation that Mr Barry was pressurised to deal with the suspect in a particular way.

“It was asserted that Supt Comyns was entitled to direct that the suspect be interviewed voluntarily, that there was insufficient evidence that anyone leaked information to the suspect and that the evidence did not establish inappropriate contact between the two superintendents that would constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice,” Mr Justice Humphreys said.

The judge said it was “not altogether clear whether all of those elements square with other known facts”.

In particular, he said the question of whether Supt Comyns was entitled to direct a voluntary interview depends on why he did so.

“If it was because of his view about whether an offence had been committed at all, that would be one thing; if influenced by the fact that the suspect was an associate of Supt Quilter, that would be quite another. Again, that is a matter that can only be answered at the trial,” the judge said.

Mr Barry’s civil action is due to be heard next January.

The Disclosures Tribunal is also expected to consider whether it will conduct hearings into protected disclosures made by him in connection with the sexual abuse complaint case and other matters.

GSOC came to the view Supt Comyns showed very poor judgment and compromised the investigation process and his actions were wholly inappropriate. But those findings were later quashed, with GSOC’s consent, following judicial review proceedings taken by Supt Comyns in 2018.

According to Mr Justice Humphreys’ ruling, Supt Comyns said the girl met the suspects on a website on which she represented herself as being 21 and the complaint was instigated not by her, but by her parents after they found sexual material on her phone.

The judge said the DPP, in directing there be no prosecution, saw photographic evidence and did think she looked of legal age.

Mr Barry alleges that after he took her statement, Supt Comyns asked about the allegations and requested a copy be faxed to Togher garda station. He claims Supt Comyns told him one of the suspects would have to be “looked after” because of his relationship with Supt Quilter, suggested the girl pretended to be older and instructed the report record that she instigated the sexual acts.

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