Ex-garda apologises for 'pique' and takes stand

A former garda who declined to give evidence at the tribunal yesterday was warned by the chairman that his refusal was against…

A former garda who declined to give evidence at the tribunal yesterday was warned by the chairman that his refusal was against the law and he would make an order referring the matter to the High Court.

However, after a break of half an hour to reconsider, Martin Leonard agreed to take the witness stand.

Mr Leonard was due to give evidence relating to the detention of Charlotte Peoples in Letterkenny Garda station on December 4th, 1996. He was the custody officer and member in charge.

Ms Peoples was one of 12 people arrested in connection with the death of cattle dealer Richie Barron, whom the tribunal has since found was a hit-and-run victim.


When Mr Leonard was called to the witness box yesterday, he said he wanted to make an application to the chairman, Mr Justice Frederick Morris.

He said he wanted to have read into the public transcript his recent correspondence with the tribunal, asking for the two earlier tribunal reports to be reviewed and modules re-examined in the light of new evidence.

The chairman refused his application and asked Mr Leonard several times to come to the witness stand.

"Please note my words, I'm asking you for the last time, will you please come to the witness stand, I require you to come to the witness stand now," the chairman said.

Mr Leonard replied: "Well then, chairman, I won't do it." The chairman said: "I'm asking you now, rather than put me in a position where I will have no alternative but to seek the High Court to consider your refusal to give evidence."

Mr Justice Morris said he was asking him to put aside his fit of pique, accept his ruling and give evidence. "I'm not asking you to do anything other than do what you're required by law," he said.

Mr Leonard said: "What I'm trying to do is vindicate my name which has been destroyed and I will do whatever it takes to do that." The chairman said: "Very well then, what I propose to do is refer this matter to the courts on the basis that I believe that I've made a fair request to Mr Leonard to give evidence and he has refused to do so. I don't find myself with any alternative but to make that order."

He said he would rise for a few moments in case Mr Leonard wished to change his mind. After a half an hour, the tribunal resumed and Mr Leonard took the stand.

Mr Leonard said he had received advice and he was sorry his frustrations were boiling over.

The chairman said there were no bones broken and evidence resumed.

Mr Leonard was asked about evidence by Det Sgt Sylvester Henry that he asked him on that day in the Garda station if everything was okay in an interview room where he heard raised voices, and Mr Leonard told him it was.

Mr Leonard said he did not remember Sgt Henry asking him. He had heard no shouting or loud noises and, as far as he was concerned, there was nothing wrong. Sgt Henry was now trying to extricate himself, he added.

At the end of his evidence Mr Leonard said: "I'm sorry that I was piqued but I feel that when these accusations are made like this at the last moment, I feel I am badly treated and I get upset about that. I've no right of appeal for the tribunal findings. When new evidence comes out that's when I get so angry, and the effects of that on my life and family are profound."