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Action for murder damages against the State is struck out


Sylvia Roche Kelly

Sylvia Roche Kelly

Sylvia Roche Kelly

The widower of a murdered mother-of-two said he was considering his options following a High Court decision to strike out his action for damages against the State.

Lorcan Roche Kelly sued the State, the Garda Commissioner and the Minister for Justice on behalf of his two children, alleging the killer of his wife Sylvia was "free to commit the crime of murder when he should have been in custody".

Gerard McGrath (30), the man convicted of her murder, had been out on bail at the time on a charge of assaulting a female taxi driver.

The body of Ms Roche Kelly, from Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, was found lying face down in the bath of a hotel in December 2007, after she met her murderer while out celebrating her 33rd birthday. She had been violently beaten and strangled.

McGrath of Ballywalter, Knockavilla, Co Tipperary, was later sentenced at the Central Criminal Court to life imprisonment after admitting murdering Ms Roche Kelly at the Clarion Hotel, Limerick, on December 8, 2007.

"I need some time to digest the ruling before deciding on what to do next," Mr Roche Kelly told the Irish Independent. He declined to comment further.

In his High Court action, he claimed the failure and inaction of the defendants, in the context of a bail application, to inform the relevant court of certain other offences with which McGrath had been charged caused or contributed to the fact he was at large and on bail when he should not have been.

The defendants denied all claims.


High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, ruling on a pretrial motion brought by the State to dismiss the action, said it was a tragic case.

However, the judge added that "on the basis of the existing law in this jurisdiction, it was not a case that could be successful", and struck out the action.

Mr Justice Kearns said the court was "compelled, notwithstanding the many disturbing aspects of this case which would hopefully result in an appropriate investigation elsewhere, to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim".

He said the case was not being dismissed "on some supposed blanket immunity", but because of long-established common law principles.

The matter was adjourned to allow the parties consider his ruling.

Irish Independent