Tuesday 23 January 2018

Seven garda reasons for refusing bail to killer McGrath

Jerry McGrath
Jerry McGrath
Sylvia Roche Kelly


A GARDA detective laid out seven reasons arguing why killer Jerry McGrath should be refused bail on charges of burglary and false imprisonment of a child – less than six weeks before he murdered mother-of -two Sylvia Roche-Kelly.

The 2012 report by GSOC into the garda handling of Jerry McGrath in the months before he murdered Ms Roche-Kelly – seen by the Sunday Independent – found that gardai did lay out a strong case why McGrath should be kept in custody after he smashed his way into a home in his native Tipperary and snatched a five-year-old girl.

One of the objections to bail gardai put forward was their real fear "the defendant (McGrath) may commit more crimes of a serious nature".

The bail hearing took place on October 30, 2007 in Limerick District Court in front of Judge Tom O'Donnell.

It followed the arrest of McGrath after he had smashed his way into a home in his native Dundrum and snatched the little girl from her bed.

McGrath was stopped when the father of the child heard a noise as McGrath, with his hands over her mouth and throat, roughly dragged the child down the stairs.

The householder tackled McGrath and with the aid of an off-duty garda neighbour managed to detain him.

At the bail hearing, Det Sgt John Long laid out the seven reasons why the court should refuse the bail application.

The garda objections were:

* That the defendant was a flight risk due to the seriousness of the charges.

* The weight of evidence against the defendant.

* The length of sentence on conviction.

* The DPP was considering more serious charges against Jerry McGrath arising from the incident.

* The fact that the defendant gave his address as "of no fixed abode".

* The defendant lived in the same neighbourhood as the victim's family, who were terrified.

* Gardai feared the defendant may commit more crimes of a serious nature.

However, despite this the judge granted bail.

Judges are caught in a difficult position in relation to bail, as former Justice Minister Michael Noonan alluded to when he called for reform of the bail laws in the wake of the Sylvia Roche-Kelly case.

Mr Noonan pointed out: "Judges are reluctant to refuse bail, as persons are deemed to be innocent until proven guilty and the length of time between the first appearance in court and the trial can be very long; a couple of years in many cases."

Less than six weeks later on December 8, 2007, McGrath met separated mother Sylvia Roche-Kelly in a Limerick City nightclub where she was celebrating her 33rd birthday.

She went with him to the Clarion Hotel in Limerick where he later ferociously attacked her. She was found dead, face down in the bath by hotel staff the following day.

McGrath fled the country, but was later arrested, charged and convicted of her murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Crucially, a further strong ground which would have bolstered garda objections to bail in relation to the Dundrum burglary and false imprisonment was not mentioned in court.

That factor was that McGrath was already out on bail in relation to a serious assault on Cavan taxi driver Mary Lynch some months earlier on April 30, 2007.

During his attack on Ms Lynch, McGrath had his zip undone as he rained blows about her head and face and kicked her repeatedly in the stomach. He pulled clunks of hair from her head and had his hands on her throat. He also drew blood with a bite to her shoulder.

When she went to Baileboro garda station the next morning to make her statement, she learnt that McGrath had been released on station bail of €300.

The GSOC investigation concluded that the entry in the gardai's Pulse computer system on the assault on Ms Lynch was headed: "Assault: Minor." The rest of the Pulse entry stated: "Taxi driver: assault by passenger while bringing him home. (SO) subsequently arrested, detained in station. (IP). Had bruising on neck and lower abdominal. Black Eye, Also some hair pulling."

After the incident in Tipperary, Det Sgt Long twice consulted Pulse in relation to McGrath and saw the entry in relation to the assault on Ms Lynch.

According to the GSOC investigation, Det Sgt Long said he was unable to recall how he became aware of the Cavan incident and when he became aware he decided to contact Cavan garda to obtain more details

The GSOC report states: "He cannot recall who he spoke to but states that he contacted a garda station in Cavan. He was told the incident was in relation to a dispute with a taxi driver and was given no more details.

"Det Sgt Long relies on the facts that the sparse details on Pulse led him to believe that the Cavan incident was not serious and contributed to his reasoning in not mentioning the Cavan incident at the bail hearing for the Tipperary incident on October 30."

Sunday Independent

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