Brian Rossiter (14) was found unconscious in a cell in Clonmel Garda Station following his arrest in the town on 10 September 2002. He died a few days later.
Despite repeated calls for an independent investigation into the matter it wasn’t until June 2005 that the then Justice Minister, Michael McDowell, established an inquiry. That report has now completed its work.
No evidence was found to support the claim that Rossiter was assaulted while in custody but the report did find that there was a statistical probability that that was when he sustained the fatal injury.
In keeping with the culture of secrecy and non-accountability in Ireland, this report will not be published.
Former Justice Minister, Michael McDowell introduced a new vehicle for investigation into enquiries of this kind called a commission of investigation. This was to be the slimmed down version of a tribunal of enquiry.
Yet, for some reason, at the same time he was pushing this idea enthusiastically he set up the inquiry into the death of Brian Rossiter under an arcane piece of legislation, the Metropolitan Police Act, 1924.
It was pointed out to him that the Commission of Inquiry would be perfect for this kind of inquiry so why not use it?
No, this was to be a disciplinary procedure, if you like within An Garda Siochana, this was the piece of legislation to use and oddly, it was one that he ended up scrapping off the statutes a couple of months later.
This was the last time that this piece of legislation was used and the problem with it is that it offers no protection from defamation when the report of the inquiry is published.
Tribunal reports can be quoted and analysed without the fear of being sued. We cannot do this with this report because there’s no protection against defamation and that’s because Michael McDowell set it up under this piece of legislation.