I was puzzled and to some degree I’m still puzzled by RTE’s coverage of the Brian Rossiter report.
The presenter of Today with Pat Kenny (See previous post) clearly said to Philip Boucher Hayes, who had seen the report:
“You’ve seen the report; the rest of us will not get to see the full report.”
I think the crucial word here is ‘full’. It seems that some of the report has been published but because the former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, insisted on setting up the inquiry under the arcane Metropolitan Police Act, 1924, sections of the report must remain secret because the act offers no protection from defamation on publication.
For me, the most disturbing aspect of the report’s release is how RTE news dealt with the event. Admittedly, I’m only making comment here on one programme, Six One News, but the impression given, I think, was that the Gardai had little to answer for.
Viewers were not informed that the arcane legislation this inquiry was set up under would seriously compromise its publication. My understanding is that only a summary of the report has been published. Viewers were not told that they were only getting a small part of the story.
RTE news placed great emphasis on the unreliability of witnesses who were hostile to the Gardai.
While reporting that Brian Rossiter was unlawfully detained overnight by Gardai, RTE emphasised that Hugh Hartnett SC, the reports author, was not satisfied that Brian Rossiter was assaulted in Garda custody.
Viewers were not informed, however, that the report also found there was a statistical probability that Brian Rossiter sustained his fatal injury while in Garda custody.
I’m puzzled here because of the apparent contradiction, perhaps an expert witness came to the conclusion regarding the statistical probability. In any case, RTE did not make any of this clear to viewers.
The overall impression given was that the report was fully published, that all the details of the case were available and that the Gardai were, in the main, innocent of any wrongdoing.
The Rossiter family does not agree and are very unhappy with the report. I tend to agree with them