Tue, 21 Jun, 2022 – 18:23
A doctor has told the Disclosures Tribunal that she was “unnerved” by an “inappropriate” visit to her surgery from a Garda inspector over a sick certificate she issued to a retired sergeant who alleges bullying and harassment against Garda management.
The tribunal has heard that the retired sergeant received a certificate from the doctor recommending he could only return to work if he did not come in contact with his superintendent, nor attend the Co. Cork station at which his superior was based.
The inspector has told the tribunal that he had “never” seen a medical certificate stating that a Garda was fit to return to work but that he could not attend his workplace. He said that he was sent to the GP to validate the conditions of the cert.
The tribunal is investigating claims made by retired Garda Sergeant Paul 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 Superintendent Michael Comyns, who he says subsequently 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 that 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 Superintendent Catherine Kehoe.
On Tuesday, Dr Margaret-Anne Kiely told Diarmaid McGuinness SC, for the tribunal, that she received a visit from Insp. Anthony O’Sullivan regarding the certificate. She had issued the cert to Mr Barry, which stated that he could return to work if he did not have to come in direct contact with Supt Comyns, nor attend Fermoy Garda Station where Supt Comyns was based.
Mr Barry claims that the visit was targeting him in that it amounted to sending Insp. O’Sullivan to question his doctor. Mr Barry has told the tribunal in his statement that “I never had a medical cert questioned previously in all my service” and that it made him “upset and intimidated”.
Dr Kiely, who appeared by video-link to Dublin Castle where the tribunal is being held, told Mr McGuinness that she was aware of the “trouble” Mr Barry had with Supt Comyns when she wrote the certificate. Mr Barry reported as unfit for duty on August 6, 2012, due to what he says was work-related stress.
Mr Barry has told the tribunal that he was forced to return to work on March 29, 2013, for financial reasons as he was on half-pay due to the length of the leave – 239 days in total.
Dr Kiely said that on December 12, 2012, she wrote to the assistant chief medical officer at An Garda Siochána advising that Mr Barry was unfit for duty due to work-related stress. A consultant psychologist, Dr John Dennehy, also wrote to the assistant CMO stating that Mr Barry was suffering from a “depressive adjustment disorder regarding work experience”.
Dr Kiely told Mr McGuinness that Mr Barry did not want to return to work but that he felt he had “no choice” but to do so as he had “severe financial worries” and could not pay his mortgage on half of his salary, which had been cut due to his absence being recorded as “sick/illness”.
Dr Kiely said she was concerned that if Mr Barry returned to work under the same circumstances he might be “re-triggered” in terms of his mental health.
On April 4, 2013, Dr Kiely issued the certificate, backdating it to March 28, 2013, saying that Mr Barry was fit to return to work but with the conditions which prompted the visit from Insp. O’Sullivan.
Dr Kiely said she was “very surprised” at the “unusual” visit by Insp. O’Sullivan, who, she said, appeared in “full uniform”. Dr Kiely said that Insp. O’Sullivan asked if she had produced the certificate with the conditions on it regarding Mr Barry and she replied that she had.
She said that she did not ever recall a visit by an employer or a manager to her regarding a medical certificate and considered it “very unusual and inappropriate”.
Dr Kiely said that any queries about medical certificates should come from the offices of an occupational health practitioner and that she told Insp. O’Sullivan that she could not discuss Mr Barry’s condition due to patient confidentiality.
Dr Kiely told Shane Costelloe SC, for Mr Barry, that while she was “unnerved” by the visit she kept her emotions to herself during the meeting with Insp. O’Sullivan as it was part of her professional duty to do so.
Mr Costelloe asked Dr Kiely if it was her perception that Insp. O’Sullivan by questioning the cert was implying it was a forgery and was told “yes”. “I think by questioning it, in that if someone asks ‘did you write this?’, then it implies that they think someone else did,” said Dr Kiely.
Insp. O’Sullivan has denied that he visited Dr Kiely’s surgery because the cert was a “forgery”. Insp. O’Sullivan has told Mr Costelloe that he was not visiting the GP on suspicion of the certificate being a forgery because he believed that Mr Barry “would never do that”.
He said he visited Dr Kiely’s surgery on his way to court on the morning of April 5, 2013, after being asked by Chief Supt Gerard Dillane to inquire about the conditions inserted into the medical certificate. The cert had also been backdated in biro from April 4, 2013, to March 28, 2013, the day before Mr Barry returned to work.
Insp. O’Sullivan said that the certificate was similar to a builder being told they were fit for work but “could not go on the site”. He has told the tribunal he did not arrive at Dr Kiely’s surgery in full uniform and that he was “discreet” in meeting her in her office.
Insp. O’Sullivan said that neither he nor Chief Supt Dillane suspected the document to be forged and that he had worked with Mr Barry for eight years. “It would never have crossed my mind that Paul Barry would do something like that [forge a document],” said Insp. O’Sullivan.
The tribunal concludes its evidence on Wednesday before retired judge Chairman Sean Ryan after which oral submissions will be made by lawyers for all parties concerned.