DPP begins inquiry into Rossiter charges

 

The Director of Public Prosecutions has begun investigating how gardaí charged a 25-year-old man with the manslaughter of a teenage boy without authorisation, it has emerged.

Charges were levelled against a Co Tipperary man over the death of Brian Rossiter (14), who died two days after being found unconscious in a cell in Clonmel Garda Station.

In this case, the manslaughter and section four causing serious bodily harm, counts were put on the indictment though not directed by this office.
Director of Public Prosecutions office

A spokeswoman for the DPP confirmed it has launched an inquiry into how officers preferred charges against the man without being directed.

Noel Hannigan, of Cooleens Close, Clonmel, faced charges of assault and manslaughter in March 2004 over the boy's death, only for the case to be dropped last month.

"In this case, the manslaughter and section four causing serious bodily harm, counts were put on the indictment though not directed by this office," the DPP's office stated. "The circumstances of how this came about are under inquiry."

The 14-year-old died in September 2002 after being found unconscious in a cell at Clonmel Garda station two days earlier. He had been arrested the previous night on suspicion of committing a public order offence.

The boy's parents claim he died following an assault while in custody in Clonmel Garda Station and have begun legal proceedings alleging wrongful death. However, gardai have said the assault was due a fight with an older man days earlier.

A report of investigation into the matter has been given to Mr McDowell. The Department of Justice also confirmed a brief report compiled by gardai on the matter had been submitted.

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell said he was not in a position to call on the DPP to investigate how and why the charges were preferred. And he said there was no question of usurping the independence of the DPP.

"That's a question which the DPP has to ask. It's not a matter within my scope or within my responsibility," he said. "It did not happen as a result of any intervention on the part of the Department of Justice. It's an independent matter for the DPP and the prosecution agencies to sort that out."

The minister said he would not interfere in the workings of the DPP's office and said it was up to the director, James Hamilton to launch an investigation.

"The Director of Public Prosecutions is an independent officer and I'm not going to publicly put pressure on him to discharge his functions in one way or another," he said. But Mr McDowell said a simple explanation for the controversy would be uncovered.

PA