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Sunday 15 September 2019

Review into why rapist was free after repeated breaches

Warning: Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre
Warning: Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre

Ralph Riegel and Tom Brady

Victims rights groups have demanded answers from a Garda internal review about how Eoin Berkley (25) was released despite his facing a rape investigation and the knowledge he was flouting bail conditions.

He was released on ongoing bail for other offences, even after being arrested for questioning about the rape of the Spanish student. He had not yet been charged with the sex offence at the time.

However, gardaí have ordered a review into the handling of the multiple bail breaches by Berkley, amid warnings he should never have been free on Dublin streets to commit the horrific rape. The review is set to be led by Garda Assistant Commissioner Pat Leahy.

Dublin Rape Crisis Centre chief executive Noeline Blackwell warned that the most worrying aspect of the case was the fact Berkley's repeated bail breaches were known about but apparently not acted upon.

"That [Garda] review is very welcome. Reports that gardaí knew about the breaches of bail and did nothing were very worrying," she said.

"The sentencing certainly brought a focus on the case and, from the perspective of victims, we were able to say this was certainly a worry."

The internal review will take place amid increasing demands for a wide-ranging overhaul of bail, sentencing and mental health regulations in light of the shock revelations in the Berkley rape case.

It is the latest case to prompt demands from politicians and victims rights groups for an overhaul of the bail regime and its enforcement.

It has emerged the convicted rapist, now starting a 14-year term for the abduction and repeated rape of the 18-year-old, should have been in custody over five different public order bail breaches when he attacked the woman after luring her to waste ground from Dublin city centre.

While he was not charged with the rape at the time of his release, questions have arisen over why an attempt wasn't made to keep him in custody through the revocation of bail from his earlier breaches of bail conditions.

Further, it also emerged that Berkley had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act a month before at the instigation of a senior garda who was worried both about his behaviour and Berkley's own safety. However, Berkley was deemed fit to be released by a doctor.

An internal Garda review will now focus on the handling of Berkley's multiple bail breaches and why action was not taken to enforce the strict conditions of his bail.

A Garda spokesperson stressed that the aim of the review will be "to establish the lessons to be learned and whether changes to procedures and processes are required."

It is understood a primary focus will be on an apparent lack of co-ordination between Garda divisions to ensure everyone is aware of bail conditions in such serious cases.

It is expected to highlight the need for proper "case management" in similar cases.

Irish Independent

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