Gallagher release may be inevitable - Shatter

Fri, May 25, 2012, 01:00

THE RELEASE of double killer John Gallagher may be inevitable and may happen within the next few weeks, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has said.

Gallagher (46), Lifford, Co Donegal, was found “guilty but insane” of the murder of his girlfriend, Anne Gillespie (18), and her mother, Annie (51), in the grounds of Sligo General Hospital in 1988, after learning that she wanted to end their relationship. Gallagher handed himself in earlier this month to the Central Mental Hospital and is likely to apply to a Mental Health Review Board for release within the next few days if he has not done so already, according to Mr Shatter.

“It is possible he could be released within a few weeks, within a few months,” the Minister said yesterday. “I don’t know what decision the Heath Review Board will take in regards to his current mental health. It’s not something I would be qualified to make an assessment on nor would it be appropriate.

“If the decision is that he no longer suffers from a mental illness and doesn’t pose a danger to the community, there may be an inevitability about his release,” Mr Shatter added.

The possibility of Gallagher’s release has been explained to the Gillespie family, according to Mr Shatter, who was speaking ahead of the annual conference of the European Network of Forensic Science Institutes at Dublin Castle.

“He is entitled to apply, as is any other patient in the Central Mental Hospital, to the independent Mental Health Review Board for release. Under that statutory provision they make that decision based on an assessment of his mental health,” Mr Shatter said.

Gallagher absconded from the Central Mental Hospital in July 2000 and fled to England before moving to Northern Ireland.

“If he had been found in the Republic of Ireland he could have been arrested but there are no arrangements in place between the Republic and our direct neighbours, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales, which would facilitate a mutual and reciprocal exchange of individuals who in these circumstances abscond,” Mr Shatter said.

Mr Shatter yesterday met Northern Ireland Minister of Justice David Ford to discuss the possibility of a new treaty that would ensure that a person who is found not guilty of a crime by virtue of mental illness and then absconds could be sent back to the country in which the original judgment was made.

Gallagher’s family have asked Mr Shatter to detain their brother at the Central Mental Hospital indefinitely. In a letter to the Minister yesterday, the family outlined their fears for their own safety if he is released. The family, apart from brother Christopher, say they must be given time to consider what they will do if he is freed.