Report finds Rossiter unlawfully detained

 

An inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Clonmel schoolboy Brian Rossiter while in Garda custody has found no evidence that he was assaulted but found he was unlawfully detained by gardai.

The report of the inquiry by senior counsel Hugh Hartnett into the boy's death was published by Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan today.

It found there was a failure to fully investigate all the circumstances surrounding his death.


These findings must now be studied carefully to see what lessons need to be learned, and how best to deal with any similar circumstances in the future Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan

Brian Rossiter died after he was found unconscious in a cell at Clonmel Garda station on the morning of September 11th, 2002, following his arrest by gardaí at about 9.30pm on the previous night on suspicion of having committed a public order offence.

The inquiry found that, while the arrest of Brian Rossiter was lawful, his detention was unlawful, notwithstanding the fact that his father consented to it.

It also found there was a failure to observe properly certain procedural requirements of regulations governing custody in Garda stations, in particular a failure to record accurately the time at which Brian Rossiter was given information relating to his rights while in custody.

Mr Hartnett’s inquiry was not satisfied, however, that the teenager was assaulted in the course or while he was in custody.

It also found no evidence that there was an attempt made to mislead medical personnel wrongfully with incorrect information.

The inquiry sat in private for 77 days and heard evidence from 99 witnesses between December 2005 and September 2006.

The report found Brian Rossiter was under the influence of an intoxicant at the time of his arrest.

“It would appear reasonable to believe that a fourteen-year-old who is intoxicated might prove to be a danger to himself. In these circumstances, and having considered all the evidence presented, the inquiry is satisfied that the arrest was not unlawful.”

On the allegations that Mr Rossiter was assaulted, Mr Hartnett found the evidence of one male witness who claimed he saw Brian Rossiter being assaulted upon his arrest to be “entirely false”.

A female witness who also alleged that she saw Brian Rossiter being assaulted by a garda while being taken to the Garda station gave evidence that “was unclear and, at times, contradictory”.

The inquiry “did not find [her] to be a persuasive or credible witness and does not accept her evidence in relation to the alleged maltreatment of Brian Rossiter”.

A man named as ‘Mr C’ who claimed he saw Brian Rossiter being assaulted by members of the Garda Síochána in Clonmel Garda station was “thoroughly unreliable and lacking in credibility”. There were “glaring inconsistencies” in various versions of events given by Mr C since 2002, the report states.

Mr C was in custody that night in the Garda station having been arrested for an unrelated offence.

“His lack of co-operation with this inquiry from the very beginning was in marked contrast to his willingness to report allegations to other parties in circumstances where he would not be subjected to examination," the report said.

Mr Lenihan said today the publication of the full report was not possible for legal reasons.

“I hope that the comprehensive summary which I am publishing today, containing extensive extracts from the report, will facilitate a clear understanding of the events leading up to Brian's tragic death.

“While I am constrained in what I can say due to ongoing litigation, and while I am mindful of the inquest currently under way, clearly these findings must now be studied carefully to see what lessons need to be learned, and how best to deal with any similar circumstances in the future,” he said.

A full copy of the report has been made available to the Rossiter family in the context of ongoing civil proceedings.

Copies of the full report have also been given to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Cork City Coroner, and the Garda Commissioner.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said he accepted the findings of the report. “However, in responding he is mindful of the constraints placed on him by the forthcoming inquest and by the ongoing related civil proceedings in the High Court.

“The Garda Commissioner tasked an Assistant Commissioner to examine the full report and to assess in accordance with legal advice whether any disciplinary or criminal issues arise.

"In that context the Assistant Commissioner is consulting with the relevant law officers and the Commissioner awaits a report from him,” he said in a statement.

“The Commissioner again extends his sympathies to the Rossiter family on the tragic death of Brian and acknowledges the distress experienced by them at their loss.”

The Garda Representative Association said it was studying the full version of the document.

GRA president John Egan said members "fully co-operated with the investigation and subsequent inquiry".

"We welcome the findings by Mr Hartnett that there was no assault by a member of An Garda Síochána, either during the arrest or in whilst in Garda custody.”