Rossiter inquest to proceed, while inquiry is stalled
There was a significant development in the Brian Rossiter case on Tuesday 27 June when the person who assaulted him five days before he died pleaded guilty to a charge of assault.
Brian Rossiter is the 14-year-old Clonmel boy who was found in a coma in a cell in Clonmel garda station on the morning of 11 September 2002. He died in Cork University Hospital two days later, without recovering consciousness.
The Rossiter family are concerned Brian may have been assaulted by gardaí who arrested him on the evening of 10 September. There is evidence to suggest this occurred both at the time of his arrest and when he was brought to the garda station.
Having ignored representations concerning this case for over a year, Michael McDowell responded to publicity concerning the case by setting up an inquiry into what happened by senior counsel Hugh Hartnett.
The garda have claimed that Brian Rossiter died, not as a result of anything that happened him on his arrest or when he was taken to the garda station, but from the delayed effect of injuries he received in the course of a serious assault by a Clonmel man, Noel Hannigan, on the evening of 8 September 2002.
Noel Hannigan was initially charged simply with the assault of Brian Rossiter but then, without the knowledge of the DPP, he was also charged with manslaughter. Had Noel Hannigan been convicted of manslaughter it would have left the gardaí off the hook on the case. The DPP has conducted an inquiry into how the charge of manslaughter was taken against Noel Hannigan without his direction or approval. In the event, Hannigan was charged and convicted only on the assault charge, which means the DPP did not believe there was evidence linking Hannigan to the death of Brian Rossiter. The outcome of that DPP inquiry has not been made known to the Rossiter family.
With the case of DPP v Noel Hannigan concluded, there is no further reason to delay the inquest into the death of Brian Rossiter. Until now the gardaí had repeatedly objected to the inquest proceeding because they claimed that the prosecution of Noel Hannigan might be prejudiced.
Meanwhile the inquiry instigated by Michael McDowell is stalled. The inquiry did not sit over the last three months – having sat for a total of 50 days prior to then. It is reckoned there are a further 25 days of hearing, which means the inquiry will not be completed until the end of the year.