Man freed on bail in error before murder

Mother murdered by son when he should have been in Garda custody, report finds

Celyn Eadon had been remanded in custody after failing to produce the surety required to make bail. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Celyn Eadon had been remanded in custody after failing to produce the surety required to make bail. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 01:00

A 22-year-old man sentenced to life in prison for murdering his mother at their Mayo home while under the influence of drugs should have been in Garda custody at the time, according to the report of the Inspector of Prisons published last night.

Celyn Eadon, who was 19 at the time of the murder, stabbed 46-year-old Nóirín Kelly 19 times on March 9th, 2011. She died at the scene. The Garda has confirmed a number of officers have been “disciplined” over the affair.

After the incident, then minister for justice Alan Shatter asked the Inspector of Prisons, Mr Justice Michael Reilly, to conduct an investigation into the circumstances in which Eadon was released at Castlebar District Court the previous month.

Eadon had been remanded in custody after failing to produce the surety required to make bail. He was in court in relation to seven road-traffic offences.

Bail was granted to Eadon at Castlebar District Court on February 16th but a bond of €300 was required from him, as well as an independent surety of €600. Eadon was unable to produce this and was remanded in custody to appear before Achill District Court on March 10th, 2011 – the day after he murdered his mother.

Mr Justice Reilly said the registrar of the District Court prepared remand warrants in accordance with the order of the judge.

Then Garda commissioner Martin Callinan confirmed to Mr Justice Reilly the orders had been received by the Garda. Prior to the instigation of Mr Justice Reilly’s investigation, Mr Callinan appointed a chief superintendent to conduct a disciplinary investigation into the circumstances surrounding the matter. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a number of named gardaí.

Mr Justice Reilly said in his report his investigation was non-statutory and as such did not have the power to make findings in relation to matters upon which a decision had already been taken in the Garda disciplinary proceedings.

Before this case, Castlebar District Court did not maintain a register for warrants and it did not have a system whereby prisons or the Garda acknowledged receipt of such warrants in writing. Mr Justice Reilly said this had not had any bearing on the case.

The Courts Service subsequently conducted an “in- depth analysis” of the systems in operation in provincial district courts in relation to the issue of warrants generally. A protocol for the preparation, checking and issuing of warrants in provincial district courts has been devised, and Mr Justice Reilly said he was satisfied current protocols reflected best practice.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald said her department would move to ensure “such a serious breakdown at operational level” does not reoccur.

“I very much regret the tragic situation that has occurred,” she said. “The primary concern at this stage is to ensure that such a serious breakdown at operational level should not happen again.

“In this context I note Judge Reilly has expressed satisfaction with the manner in which these matters are dealt with by the Courts Service. With regard to the Garda, the relevant procedures are currently the subject of a review by GSOC.”