Rossiter family to boycott inquiry over legal fees

 

The inquiry into the death of Brian Rossiter will go ahead despite his parents' refusal to attend in a row over legal costs, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell insisted today.

Fourteen-year-old Brian died in hospital two days after being found unconscious in Garda custody in Clonmel in September 2002. He had been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence the previous night.

A preliminary hearing of the statutory inquiry into Brian's arrest, treatment and detention was held in Dublin this morning.

The inquiry, which is being conducted by Hugh Hartnett SC, is due to begin in private in ten days and is expected to last for six to eight weeks.

Brian's father, Pat Rossiter, said today the family cannot afford the legal fees to be represented at the inquiry when it opens proper.

The Rossiter's solicitor, Cian O'Carroll, has criticised the costs allocated by the Department of Justice for the family to deal with their pursuit of the State. "They won't have any proper representation," he said last month.

The family have also complained that the terms of reference of the inquiry are too narrow.

Mr McDowell said this afternoon he was "sorry to hear" the family had decided not to attend the hearing. He insisted the Government had offered them the maximum rates allowable under new regulations governing the payment of tribunal legal staff.

"Many people would regard the sums of money available as very substantial indeed," the Minister said. "I regret that this offer has not been taken up, but it will not prevent the inquiry going ahead."

The family would still be obliged to attend the inquiry to testify if it was called, regardless of whether or not it had legal representation, he said.