€40,000 for family of man who died in Garda custody

 

THE FAMILY of a young father who died soon after falling unconscious in a Garda station, as a result of allegedly overdosing on methadone prescribed the previous day, has secured €40,000 in settlement of their High Court action for negligence against the Garda, the State and a doctor.

The settlement, made without admission of liability, arises from the death of Francis Brooks jnr, a heroin addict in his early 20s and the father of one son. A total of €23,000 of the settlement sum will go to his child.

Mr Justice John Quirke expressed his sympathy to the Brooks family, saying this was “a dreadful thing to happen”.

The judge had refused to approve an earlier settlement offer of €30,000 on the basis it was insufficient. He also noted there were difficulties in such cases as a result of the constraints on damages that may be awarded under the Civil Liability Act.

His parents, Antoinette and Francis Brooks, Fortlawn Drive, Mountview, Clonsilla, Dublin, had alleged negligence in the circumstances of their son’s death and sought damages for mental distress. They also alleged breach of duty and false imprisonment.

The action was against the Garda Commissioner, the Minister for Justice, the State and two GPs, all of whom denied the claims. The action was struck out against one doctor and the settlement was against all other defendants.

The family alleged Mr Brooks attended a GP’s surgery on September 17th, 1998, but was not a patient of the GP before that. It was alleged the GP prescribed 1,260ml of physeptone linctus (methadone), to be taken in 180ml doses daily for one week, and 14 sleeping tablets (Dalmaine). He asked Mr Brooks to report back to him in a week.

The following day, Mr Brooks was stopped by gardaí at Tallaght while driving a car, accompanied by his partner. He was arrested for suspected drink driving and taken to Tallaght Garda station, arriving there about 12.20am.

It was alleged, at the time of his arrest, that his partner took an empty bottle of physeptone from Mr Brooks’s pocket and showed it to a garda. It was also alleged Mr Brooks was searched by a garda at the station, who found an empty bottle of physeptone and four orange tablets and who showed these to the sergeant in charge.

Mr Brooks was recorded in the custody record at 12.23am as “almost falling asleep” and as being possibly under the influence of “drugs rather than drink”. At 12.25am a doctor was called. It was alleged a garda told the doctor that Mr Brooks had been arrested for drink driving and had possibly taken methadone.

About 2.06am, Mr Brooks was asked to provide a blood or urine sample, the doctor had a conversation with him and he was then returned to his cell, it was claimed.

It was further alleged that at 5.30am, a charge sheet was read over to Mr Brooks. At 7.30am, it was claimed a garda tried to wake Mr Brooks so as to release him on his own bail but he was believed to be unconscious. An ambulance was called and Mr Brooks was subsequently pronounced dead.

Mr Brooks’s parents claimed the GP who prescribed the methadone prescribed an excessive dose and failed to exercise caution and adequate monitoring. The Garda and State were alleged to have failed to examine Mr Brooks’s prescribed drugs or the empty bottle found on him and failed to have sufficient regard to his being an intravenous drug user.

It was also claimed that Mr Brooks was inadequately monitored and detained.

The defendants denied the claims. It was pleaded that the Garda defendants were at no time aware Mr Brooks had taken methadone and it was also claimed that he had denied to gardaí at Tallaght that he had taken methadone.