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Bail, brown envelopes and botched interviews: The victims behind garda malpractice

The people behind the headlines.

THE O’HIGGINS REPORT is a 362 page document that highlights “serious flaws” in how gardaí dealt with crimes in the Cavan/Monaghan region.

It points to problems with garda management, resources and procedures that, at their heart, have real world consequences.

The report examines some of those victims who were not properly served by gardaí.

The murder of Sylvia Roche Kelly, December 2007

pastedimage-82987-390x285 Jerry McGrath being led away from court during the murder case of Sylvia Roche Kelly. Source: RTÉ Screengrab

The most serious and widely reported case investigated is that of Sylvia Roche Kelly who was murdered by Jerry McGrath. McGrath was on bail for a serious assault and the attempted abduction of a child when the murder took place.

The tragic details of this case are explained in detail here:

The case began when driver Mary Lynch was seriously assaulted after picking up McGrath as a passenger in Kells, Co Meath. He was charged with assault rather than the more serious charge of assault causing harm.

He was then granted bail.

When he returned to his native Tipperary, McGrath attempted to abduct a five-year-old girl after he broke into a house armed with a hurley.

He was charged over this incident but was again released on bail.

It was while he was on bail for these two charges that he brutally murdered Sylvia Roche Kelly.

11/5/2016. O Higgins Commission Reports Fine Gael Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald speaks at the publication of the report. Source: Sam Boal

O’Higgins findings

The report comes to the conclusion that the investigation into the assault of Mary Lynch was,

characterised by delay and lack of effective supervision of the investigating member.

It also found that she was not afforded the opportunity to be present when the matter was dealt with in court.

Addressing garda actions in McGrath being released on bail by the court following the attempted abduction, the report found that,

bail was objected to in strenuous terms by the gardaí in Tipperary.

It found that the approach from gardaí in Tipperary was therefore “a reasoned and considered one”.

The report adds:

However, this does not excuse the original misclassification of the Virginia assault and the lamentable failure to communicate effectively within An Garda Síochána to ensure that accurate and relevant information is shared.

The Kingscourt bus incident, February 2007

bailieboro garda station Bailieboro garda station. Source: TheJournal.ie

This case relates to a public order incident and possible sexual assault on a bus in Kingscourt, Co Cavan.

The driver of the bus, Lorraine Browne, reported to gardaí that a number of men had been misbehaving on the minibus and may have assaulted another unknown girl on board.

Speaking to gardaí, Browne had stated that,

when the girl was getting off, the biggest lad grabbed her arse. Her boyfriend turned around and said ‘how dare you mate.’

A report into the investigation found that this was prima facie evidence of a sexual assault and that the complaint should have been investigated even in the absence of identifying the victim.

The cases was decided when the woman was compensated for loss of earnings to the tune of €150.

She rejected the offer of compensation at first but was persuaded to accept it by Garda Fearghal McCarthy at Bailieboro Garda Station.

When she attended the garda station, she was handed a brown envelope containing €150 and a note of apology written on paper that had been torn out of a notebook.

She then signed a statement withdrawing her complaint.

O’Higgins findings 

The O’Higgins Report found that the driver had undergone a “harrowing experience” but that the matter was not dealt with in a competent and professional manner.

Lakeside Manor Hotel Assault, April 2007

PastedImage-43032 The assault occurred outside at nightclub at the hotel. Source: Facebook

This incident related to an assault that occurred outside a nightclub at the Lakeside Manor Hotel.

The victim Charles McMahon suffered facial injuries during the assault. A man was charged with assault causing harm but was later acquitted.

A report into the investigation found that it was not carried out in a timely and professional manner by Garda Padraig Naughton.

There were delays in interviewing witnesses that were “either neglect of duty or inexperience”.

The most serious breach was found to be during an interview with the accused when,

Garda Naughton falsely told him that he had seen CCTV footage of him striking the injured party.

O’Higgins findings  

The O’Higgins Report found that the investigation of the incident was “categorised by delay and error”

It concluded that Garda Naughton was given,

virtually no guidance from his supervisory sergeants as to how to further the investigation.

It also found that the unprofessional manner of the interview process was used “quite properly” during the trial to “undermine the prosecution case”.

Assault in Cootehill, September 2007

9/2/2016. Responce to Gangland Murders Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan. Source: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

This relates to an incident of assault and false imprisonment of a girl in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

The 17-year-old was walking home at about 6am in the morning when she was grabbed from behind across the mouth by a man dressed in black. She told gardaí that she recognised him from the area and that he was a foreign national from Eastern Europe.

She said that she struggled free and ran away, meeting up with friends she’d been with earlier in the evening.

When the suspect was identified four months later he was arrested and questioned in Bailieboro Garda Station with the assistance of an interpreter.

The interview lasted for just 22 minutes and no prosecution was forthcoming.

An examination of the investigation found a number of criticisms including that:

  • There was a delay in obtaining relevant CCTV footage.
  • No medical examination of the injured party took place.
  • No identification parade took place.
  • The interview of the suspect was inadequate.

O’Higgins findings

The O’Higgins Report concluded that the victim was not well served by the investigation. It made particular reference to the lack of an identification parade and the poor quality of interview.

It adds:

The legal basis for the arrest and detention of the suspect is very doubtful. This could have had serious consequences in the event of a prosecution.

The report can be accessed in full here >

Read: Bailieboro locals say it was resources they needed, not enquiries >

Read: O’Higgins Report: Victims let down by serious flaws and failures in garda investigations >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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