The death of a well-known barrister who was believed to be under threat from a violent criminal is not being treated as suspicious by gardaí.
Alan Toal (60) was discovered dead in his home in Arklow, Co Wicklow last Thursday. He had suffered from various medical problems in recent years, including spinal issues and chronic pain.
Mr Toal was a member of An Garda Síochána where he served in a motorcycle unit before leaving after sustaining an injury on duty. He became a barrister in 1992 and built up a busy criminal defence practice, including representing various high-profile gangland criminals.
One of his most prominent clients was the violent gang leader Eamon Dunne. Mr Toal represented the criminal on several occasions before Dunne was shot dead in 2010.
Last August, Mr Toal was assaulted by another former client, a major drug dealer from the west of Ireland. The attacker headbutted and punched the barrister and stole his Porsche Panamera car.
A complaint was made to gardaí and Mr Toal alleged he had been subject to threats against his life. Gardaí provided the barrister with advice on ensuring his safety and kept a close watch on his home, sources said. Investigators are still attempting to locate the suspect in the assault.
It is understood Mr Toal died in his bed in his home in Briggs Lane, Arklow. The RIP.ie website states he died “unexpectedly, but peacefully”.
A garda spokeswoman said no criminal investigation is taking place. “The matter is being treated as a sudden death. A file has been prepared for the coroner.”
Mr Toal, a married father of two, was known for his combative courtroom style, which sometimes caused him to clash with judges. In 2011, he was locked in a cell in Bray District Court on the orders of the judge after becoming involved in a scuffle with a garda on the floor of the court.
In 2014 he attempted to stop the Bar Council from imposing sanctions on him for breaches of the barristers’ code, including that he took money directly from a client, that he berated a client during a consultation and that he failed to engage with internal inquiries.
More recently, Mr Toal was involved in a dispute with the Beacon Hospital, which had refused to continue to provide treatment to the barrister after the assault in August.
In August, Mr Toal sought a High Court injunction against the private hospital, claiming he had been a patient there for over a decade and had paid large sums of money.
The hospital said the decision not to keep him as a patient was linked to Mr Toal allegedly refusing to leave the hospital last February after he had been deemed fit to be discharged. The case remains before the High Court.
John Geary, of JV Geary Solicitors, Castlebar, Co Mayo, who worked closely with Mr Toal on many cases over some 14 years, said they were best friends and Mr Toal was “a one-off legal legend” whom it was “a complete privilege to have worked with”.
“Alan was utterly fearless in representing his clients, he would go to the ends of the earth for them,” he said. “He was also great fun to be with, he was never dull.”
Mr Geary, who edits The Parchment, the magazine of the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, said he had been contacted by many lawyers over the past few days who were shocked and saddened by the news of Mr Toal’s sudden death.
Mr Toal had felt too unwell to act in a case listed before Kilkenny Circuit Court last week, Mr Geary said. Tributes were paid to Mr Toal in that court before Judge Cormac Quinn last Thursday after Mr Geary informed the court of the death of Mr Toal.