Gardai involved at Abbeylara


Mr Justice Barr's view of the performance of key personnel.

Supt Joseph Shelly

Supt Joseph Shelly, from Mullingar station, was the joint scene commander and was on duty at the time of the fatal shooting of John Carthy. In his report, Mr Justice Barr says Supt Shelly's immediate concern was to detain John Carthy in the house "pending the outcome of negotiations with him" - an appropriate immediate response.

However, neither of the two scene commanders, Supt Joseph Shelly or Supt Michael Byrne, had experience of dealing with an armed siege or with dangerous conduct motivated by mental illness.

When local armed personnel were replaced by the Garda Emergency Response Unit (ERU), the local officers seem to have been left "largely to their own devices". The report expresses surprise that they remained on the scene, and says their presence near the command vehicle near Burke's gate "created a potential disaster situation which ought to have been adverted to by the scene commanders."

When John Carthy walked up the road in the Abbeylara direction, it is "evident that all concerned were taken by surprise . . . some of them appeared not to know what to do."

"The greatest Garda mistake at Abbeylara was not preparing for an uncontrolled exit by Mr Carthy from his house," the report states. "Supt Shelly, the scene commander, was one of those exposed to potential danger and had to run for cover," the report states.

There was also a possibility of "blue on blue" shootings between local and ERU officers. Supt Shelly also elected not to appoint a specific intelligence officer but took on that role himself, and "appears to have done little, if anything" in his adopted role.

The report also criticises Supt Shelly's "negligence" in failing to interview or have interviewed John Carthy's doctor, Dr Patrick Cullen, as a matter of urgency.

Det Sgt Michael Jackson

Det Sgt Michael Jackson of the Garda's Emergency Response Unit was the Garda negotiator at Abbeylara, having attended a two- week negotiator's course at the London Metropolitan Police in March 2000. He fired two shots at John Carthy, both of which hit him in the leg.

Mr Justice Barr says that as a novice negotiator, his first priority should have been to meet and have a detailed consultation with Dr Patrick Cullen, Mr Carthy's doctor. This would also have led him to learn at an earlier stage about the involvement of Dr David Shanley, a consultant psychiatrist, who had previously treated him and who was due to meet him on the day of the siege.

Dr Shanley is likely to have been able to provide an insight into his patient's motivation for violently defending his home, the report notes. Dr Shanley may also have advised on the importance of calming Mr Carthy and of allowing for his solicitor to attend the scene.

The possibility of creating a "victory" for Mr Carthy which might encourage him to end his stand-off also does not seem to have been addressed by the negotiator or his superiors, the report says.

Similarly, he placed an over- reliance on the rule of thumb that "no concession is made without getting something in return," something which is inappropriate in a situation where the subject is "demonstrably affected by serious mental trauma."

"Although he was involved in attempted negotiation with John Carthy for about 16 hours, Sgt Jackson failed to make any significant progress in that regard," the report states.

The report acknowledges that Det Sgt Jackson made "very real efforts to achieve a resolution of the impasse, but lack of resources and experience militated against his prospect of success".

The report also notes that there were 27 other experienced police negotiators in the jurisdiction at the time, one of which should have been provided to collaborate with Sgt Jackson.

Det Garda Aidan McCabe

Det Garda Aidan McCabe of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) arrived at Abbeylara at approximately 1pm on April 20th. He fired two shots at John Carthy, one of which proved fatal.

The report says that when Mr Carthy exited the house and proceeded in the direction of Abbeylara, Garda McCabe believed him to be "an immediate lethal threat" to nearby gardaí.

He decided that all other means of stopping Mr Carthy had been exhausted, and was preparing to fire at him when his superior, Sgt Michael Jackson, fired first. This shot and a subsequent shot seemed to have "no effect"on Mr Carthy.

In his testimony to the tribunal, Garda McCabe said he had an immediate duty to protect local officers from death or injury. The report notes that there is no doubt that there were "at least five local armed detectives" as well as unarmed uniformed officers who were vulnerable to being shot if Mr Carthy decided to do so. The second bullet from Garda McCabe's Uzi submachine gun was fatal.

The report criticises the fact that Garda McCabe was unaware that Mr Carthy had told his friend Kevin Ireland in a phone call a few hours earlier that he did not intend to shoot anyone.

That information, allied to Mr Carthy's conduct in not shooting any of the ERU officers he encountered after he left the house, might well have caused Garda McCabe to reconsider whether Mr Carthy represented a real threat to the life and safety of anyone.

The report also raises the question whether Garda McCabe was fearful of that he and his ERU colleagues were at risk of a "blue on blue" situation, caused by local armed officers on the road ahead of them who were likely to shoot at the subject.

Mr Justice Barr concludes that he is satisfied that "responsibility for his (Mr Carthy's) death rests primarily with the scene commanders and to a lesser extent with the ERU tactical commander."

Garda Turlough Bruen

Garda Turlough Bruen of Granard station wrongfully arrested and interrogated John Carthy in September 1998 and accused him of burning a wooden effigy of a goat which served as a GAA mascot, and the transporter used to move it, the report says.

The incident is seen by Mr Justice Barr as central to Mr Carthy's subsequent state of mind and deep animosity towards gardaí, as evidenced during the siege.

Mr Justice Barr says that medical evidence from Mr Carthy's doctor, Dr Patrick Cullen, indicates that he was "probably subjected to physical abuse while under interrogation" by Garda Bruen and a colleague at Granard station on the night of September 23rd 1998.

In a scathing criticism of Garda Bruen, the report states that there is no doubt that he "positively believed" that Mr Carthy was guilty of the offence charged, despite not having interviewed any alleged eyewitnesses.

It notes that on his own evidence, Garda Bruen was "guilty" of indiscipline and negligence.

"It is evident that the history of the subject's arrest and interrogation . . . was seriously embarrassing to an Garda Síochána, " the report states.

"Without any further investigation of the matter," it continues, "Bruen was subsequently promoted to the rank of sergeant."

Det Sgt Gerard Russell

Det Sgt Gerard Russell, a trained psychiatric nurse, was the team leader of the ERU unit. He was tactical commander at the scene subject to the overall authority of Supt Joseph Shelly and Supt Michael Byrne.

Mr Justice Barr notes that Sgt Russell appears not to have objected to the scene commanders' personal headquarters being located in a police vehicle parked by the ERU on the road between Burke's gate and the Carthy residence.

The report states that the tactical commander did have experience of armed sieges. It is "reasonable" to assume that he should have been aware of the dangers of siting the command vehicle and Garda cars where they were on the Abbeylara road and in having various armed and uniformed police in the vicinity. "However, in fairness to Sgt Russell, it must be recognised that his superiors put him in a very difficult, if not untenable, situation," the report says.

He also found himself having to direct senior but inexperienced officers who were scene commanders on how to do their work.

Chief Supt Patrick Tansey and Assistant commissioner Tony Hickey

Chief Supt Patrick Tansey from Mullingar station was the divisional officer from the Longford/Westmeath division. He attended at the scene and was involved in requesting the deployment of the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) and a negotiator at the scene. Assistant commissioner Tony Hickey, based at Mullingar, was responsible for the eastern region including Longford/Westmeath. He too was involved in requesting the deployment of the ERU and a negotiator at the scene.

In his report, Mr Justice Robert Barr commends the two senior officers for arranging a tactical unit through the ERU to attend along with a negotiator. While the senior officers did this without consulting Supt Joseph Shelly or Supt Michael Byrne, "that decision appears to be well founded", Mr Justice Barr's report states.

However, Supt Tansey and Mr Hickey did not take into account three important factors when they made these two decisions, the report continues.

They should have consulted scene commanders of their decisions so that they in turn could explain to local officers that they were being replaced. They should have ensured that the ERU tactical commander was of a commissioned rank. Thirdly, they ought to have ascertained that Det Sgt Michael Jackson had no prior experience as a negotiator in a siege situation.

Mr Justice Barr also says the two senior officers should have been alerted to a number of other problems at the scene, although the overall responsibility for this lies with the scene commanders.

Nevertheless, they ought to have attended to the problem that there was no detailed plan of what action officers might take if Mr Carthy made an uncontrolled, armed exit.

Supt Michael Byrne  

Supt Michael Byrne was district officer for the Granard area at the time of the shooting. On April 19th, 2000, he was in Dublin but attended the scene in the late evening. He succeeded Supt Joseph Shelly that night until the following morning.

The report says he ought to have realised that siting the command post in a Garda vehicle on a road between the Burke and Carthy entrances and the negotiation point at the Carthy boundary wall was "inappropriate and potentially dangerous".

He also did not refer to the need for keeping Abbeylara road free of vehicles and all personnel and for officers to remain out of sight.

Having inherited a command structure at Abbeylara which had been established before his arrival at the scene, Supt Byrne was "less culpable than his colleague for aspects of it which were mistaken", but as joint commander, he had responsibility for how command was exercised and for the structures which were in place.

This included the need for a planned response to a situation which occurred later when John Carthy emerged from the house. There is no evidence that Supt Byrne considered that possibility or how it should be dealt with, the report says.

He should also have appreciated the importance of calming Mr Carthy by complying with reasonable requests, such as for cigarettes.The report also criticises his failure to arrange for Mr Carthy's sister to be interviewed in depth, and to appoint a liaison officer for the Carthy family.