Parents want coroner to recuse himself from their son’s inquest

Jim and Nora Gubbins claim coroner has pre-determined views about Galway death

CCTV showed that Brian Gubbins was in the nightclub for 45 minutes and left briefly but was refused readmission. File photograph: Getty Images

CCTV showed that Brian Gubbins was in the nightclub for 45 minutes and left briefly but was refused readmission. File photograph: Getty Images


The parents of a young man whose body was found in a Galway canal three years ago want the coroner dealing with his inquest to recuse himself from hearing the case, the High Court has heard.

Jim and Nora Gubbins, parents of journalism student Brian Gubbins, say West Galway coroner Ciarán McLoughlin was seen by them being given a “guided tour” by a garda of where their son was last seen and had therefore pre-determined the outcome of the inquest.

The family claim gardaí failed to carry out a thorough investigation into the fatality in a timely manner, including making efforts to locate two youths seen on CCTV following their son shortly before he was last seen.

He was also the victim of an assault outside a nightclub shortly before his disappearance. But the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to prosecute because gardaí submitted a file in relation to the offence after the six-month time limit from the date of the incident had passed, said the family.

Gardaí regarded the death as a drowning and failed to follow reasonable lines of inquiry, they claim.

Mr Justice Séamus Noonan granted lawyers for the family leave to bring High Court judicial review proceedings against the coroner. He placed a stay on the holding of the inquest pending the proceedings.

In a sworn statement, Jim Gubbins, of Gortlandroe, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, says shortly before the scheduled inquest on January 25th last, he and he wife were showing their lawyers some of the locations Brian had been before his death.

Mr Gubbins then spotted the coroner and a garda inspector, who was to be present the case at the inquest, walking around the same area. They were shocked to see the coroner being with the inspector who was pointing out various locations, he said.

The coroner refused to recuse himself. He said he visited the area as it was difficult to visualise and added that he was not influenced by the garda. When the family said they wished to bring High Court proceedings over the matter, the inquest was adjourned to October.

‘Mystery tour’

Mr Gubbins said his son, a student at University of Limerick was on a students’ union organised “mystery tour” to a Galway nightclub on February 12th-13th, 2015. CCTV showed he was in the club for 45 minutes and left briefly but was refused readmission.

Brian, who his father said tended to avoid threatening or aggressive situations, went to a nearby restaurant to eat. He returned to the club and was again refused admission. While he was outside the club one of three youths he was talking to assaulted Brian causing him to fall against a barrier, CCTV showed.

Mr Gubbins said the footage showed his son leaving the area and approaching another nightclub on Abbeygate Street. Two other youths, not those involved earlier, are seen shadowing Brian, taking videos or photographs of him as he walked along the street.

All three go off camera heading in the direction of the Born Shopping Centre. Three or four minutes later, the two youths are back on camera returning from that area.

The following Sunday morning, after he failed to turn up for lectures on Friday and after a search was organised by his parents, Brian’s body was found in a canal that connects to the Corrib river, the court heard.

Mr Gubbins said the Garda superintendent in overall charge of the investigation did not appear to be concerned with the two youths seen following Brian.

The Gubbins solicitor wrote to the superintendent saying it was difficult to comprehend how he could have “inadvertently fallen into and drowned” in a 2ft-deep stream guarded by a 4ft- to 5ft-high railings at the location where the body was found.

The family complained to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission which, following an investigation in 2016 and last year, found no breach of regulations and that a proportionate and full investigation had been carried out.