Sunday 25 June 2017

Family of murder suspect who died in custody may sue State

Fergus Black

THE family of a murder suspect who died of methadone intoxication while in garda custody may now consider legal action against the State.

Dwayne Foster (24) of Woodbank Avenue, Finglas, Dublin, was being questioned about the murder of Donna Cleary in March 2006 when he was found unresponsive in his cell and was later pronounced dead in hospital.

It was revealed that while in custody, the father of four had lied to a doctor by telling him he was on a methadone treatment programme and within a period of nine hours was given twice the maximum dose of methadone -- a heroin substitute -- that a new user would usually receive.

High Court proceedings have already been instituted by Mr Foster's former partner on behalf of three of his four children claiming damages for alleged negligence and wrongful death.

But following a 19-day inquest which ended yesterday, his family, which includes six sisters and three brothers, said they were considering what options were now open to them.

Last night, Donna's father Peter Cleary said he had "no interest" in the outcome of the inquest but said he would find it difficult if a future case by the Foster family against the State was successful.

"So he gets justice and we get nothing. As far as I'm concerned, he was the one that shot Donna and we got no justice out of it," he said.

After almost two-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury at his inquest issued a narrative verdict setting out the circumstances surrounding his death and recommending that a new methadone-prescribing protocol should be introduced in garda stations to deal with people in custody.

It also recommended that access would be provided out of office hours to the central treatment list which details whether a person is on a methadone programme, and also that medical notes on a person in custody should be available to all relevant parties.

Mr Foster was pronounced dead in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, shortly after 3am on March 7, 2006, after a garda sergeant found him unresponsive in his cell at Coolock garda station.

A post-mortem by deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis found he had died from methadone intoxication. Dr Curtis also found 39 injuries on his body.

However, Dublin City Coroner Dr Brian Farrell said that while issues had been raised about whether a disproportionate amount of force was used in restraining and arresting Foster, none of the injuries he sustained contributed to his death.

Mr Foster had been arrested the previous day for questioning about the murder of Donna, the 22-year-old mother of a young child, who had been shot dead at a house party in Coolock on March 5.

The inquest was told that while in custody he was seen by Dr Peadar Kirk who twice prescribed methadone to him.

Mr Foster had wrongly told the doctor that he was on a methadone maintenance programme at a clinic in Ballymun and that he was receiving a 60ml dose daily. His claim about being on such a programme was later proven to be untrue.

Statement

The doctor tried unsuccessfully to contact the clinic on two occasions to confirm he was on such a programme and on the basis of what Mr Foster told him found it reasonable and appropriate to administer 30ml of methadone shortly after 11am on March 6 -- half the daily dose he said he was receiving.

Dr Kirk said he had many years of experience treating drug addicts in custody in garda stations. He found Mr Foster's account about maintenance treatment to be credible and concluded it was safe and appropriate to administer a second dose of methadone shortly after 8.30pm that night.

In a statement read on Mr Foster's behalf following the inquest, solicitor Michael Finucane said that at no stage before now had there been a serious or sustained examination of the circumstances surrounding Mr Foster's death in garda custody.

"The fact that he died while in custody in a garda station and, most importantly, whether his death could have been prevented, has never been seriously examined until now.

"Dwayne has been the target of many accusations, including that he was a heroin addict, something the inquest demonstrated as untrue."

The years since his death had been a very difficult time for the family, not least because they had had to read, see and hear nothing less than a "sustained polemic" against them from sections of the media.

"The family of Dwayne Foster intend to reflect carefully on the findings of the inquest into his death and consider what options are now open to them. It is hoped that all concerned, especially An Garda Siochana, will do the same."

Irish Independent

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