Monday 15 October 2018

Gardai won't face death charge

Parents of tragic teenager await inquiry report as prosecution now unlikely

Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

IT does not appear that any garda will face prosecution over the death of Tipperary schoolboy Brian Rossiter, who was found unconscious in a garda station cell five years ago.

The revelation came as the family of the 14-year-old warned that they do not want a coroner's inquest into his death to go ahead before the report of an independent inquiry into the tragedy is published.

Their plea came as it also emerged that the gardai, Department of Justice, the Rossiter family and Cork Coroner's Office still have no idea when the inquiry report by Hugh Hartnett SC will be published.

Cork coroner Dr Myra Cullinane revealed that she had written twice to Mr Hartnett to get an indication of the report publication date - but had not received a reply.

The inquiry - whose terms of reference include seven gardai based in Clonmel - sat for a total of 80 days and heard testimony from a total of 100 witnesses.

Brian Rossiter was discovered unconscious in a cell at Clonmel Garda Station on September 11, 2002, after he had been arrested for an alleged public order offence at 9.30pm the previous evening.

Rushed

He was immediately rushed to St Joseph's Hospital in Clonmel but was later transferred to Cork University Hospital (CUH). He died on September 13.

A post mortem examination by State Pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy later revealed he died of head injuries due to suspected blunt force trauma.

Yesterday, Dr Cullinane held a preliminary discussion with the Rossiter family and interested parties about when she might hold the inquest.

The Cork inquest was first opened on June 3, 2003 - but has been repeatedly adjourned over the past four years because of ongoing criminal investigations and, also, the Hartnett inquiry which began in December, 2005.

Dr Cullinane said her original intention was to hold the inquest after all such matters were concluded - but she was now concerned that there appeared to be no indication when the independent inquiry report will be published.

"I do not want the date for an inquest to go on indefinitely," she explained.

However, Cian O'Carroll, solicitor for Brian's parents, Pat and Siobhan Rossiter, told Dr Cullinane that the family had serious concerns about holding the inquest before the detailed inquiry report is published and its findings known.

"The risk would be that all the work of the Brian Rossiter inquiry would be undermined by less well informed decisions by an inquest jury," he said. Mr O'Carroll said that there was also the risk that holding the inquest before the inquiry report is published could prejudice any recommendations or further action deriving from the inquiry findings.

Dr Cullinane said that she was primarily concerned with the possibility that the inquest might interfere with potential criminal proceedings in the future.

The coroner asked Stephen Byrne, an official from the Chief State Solicitors Office, what his view was and "will anything flow from this inquiry".

Mr Byrne stressed that while he had only recently taken instructions on the matter, he thought such an outcome was unlikely.

Dr Cullinane said that, in light of the submissions by the interested parties, she did not see any point in going through detailed inquest witness lists at this point.

She said that she would consider her position on the matter and make a ruling on when the coroner's inquest would be held on July 26 next.

Speaking after the hearing, Brian's father, Pat, said the family were still looking for closure.

"Absolutely, without a doubt. It is eight months since the inquiry concluded and basically every month you are expecting news about the publication of the report."

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