Letter from McDowell to Rossiters' solicitor


Mr. Cian O'Carroll, Lynch and Partners, Solicitors, Jervis House, Parnell Street, Clonmel, Co. Tipperary

June, 2005

Dear Mr. O'Carroll,

Last year, you copied to me your request to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the family of the late Brian Rossiter to have access to the autopsy report. May I start off by expressing my condolences to the Rossiter family for their sad loss. Secondly I would like to apologise for the insensitive response you received from my office which issued on my behalf in response to your inquiries on behalf of the family. I did not have direct personal knowledge of the circumstances of Brian's death, apart from what was reported in the media at the time, and my sympathies should have been expressed to the family at an earlier date. As a parent myself I can fully imagine the grief that has been caused by the tragic death of a son. The suffering of the family unfortunately has been compounded by dilatory official responses that did not directly address their legitimate concerns regarding the circumstances of his death. I had no personal knowledge of your correspondence with the Department and the replies you received were not seen or approved by me. I have directed that in future all correspondence of this category should be brought to my personal attention. I also believe that the delay in promptly replying to your correspondence was indefensible.



As Minister I have overall responsibility for the operation of the Garda Síochána and the criminal justice system and it is a responsibility that I take seriously. While it is correct to say that I have no direct role in investigation or prosecution of criminal offences, I certainly do have a role in oversight and political accountability in relation to the policing of the Irish State and in particular in relation to the treatment and welfare of persons in Garda custody.

I have discussed the matter of the autopsy report with the Director of Public Prosecutions and he has advised me today that he has no objection to the report of the State Pathologist on the death of Brian Rossiter being released and its release will not prejudice the criminal proceedings in being. I have arranged for the autopsy report to be made available to you.

You will see from that report that the conclusion of the pathologist was that the cause of death was from extradural haemorrhage, the result of blunt force trauma to the head and that the bleeding inside the skull was slow and appears to have taken place over a few days. In a supplementary report the State Pathologist indicated that all the injuries on the face probably occurred at the same time.

You will be aware that a trial on indictment arising out of an assault on Brian Rossiter is listed for hearing in the coming weeks. I trust that you will appreciate the danger of prejudicing that trial posed by inappropriate use of the contents of the Pathologist's report.

Quite apart from the criminal charges being brought because of the assault on Brian Rossiter and the inquest that will be held into his death, there are a number of issues regarding the appropriateness of his detention, including the question as to whether a medical examination should have been arranged by the Garda Síochána at an earlier stage.

In the light of the allegations that Brian Rossiter may not have been properly treated or cared for while in Garda custody or on his arrest, I have decided to appoint a Senior Counsel, Mr Hugh Hartnett, to carry out a statutory inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding his arrest and detention.

I would ask you and your clients to give any assistance you can and fully co-operate with Mr Hartnett in this regard to facilitate an early and full report by him.

The Commissioner has also announced that a group has been tasked to specifically address the custody of juveniles in Garda Stations including issues relating to medical, legal, welfare and parental involvement.

Once again, may I, through you, express my deepest sympathy to the Rossiter family.

Yours sincerely,

Michael McDowell T.D.