The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan, T.D., today published the sixth report of the Morris Tribunal.
The Report was received by the Minister on 24 April 2008. Save in exceptional circumstances, the legislation establishing the Tribunal states that the Minister must, within 14 days of receiving a report from the Tribunal, arrange to have it laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas. The 14 day period expires today and accordingly the Minister has laid the report before the Houses. As with previous reports, this report will be debated in the Oireachtas in due course.
The report examines the circumstances surrounding the arrest, detention and treatment in custody of a number of persons arising, directly or indirectly, from the investigation into the death of Mr Richard Barron.
The report makes serious findings against a number of members of An Garda Síochána involved. It finds that a number of persons were unlawfully arrested and detained, and that some were mistreated in custody, mainly through verbal and in some cases physical abuse. The Tribunal also does not accept the evidence to it of several members of An Garda Síochána, and strongly condemns the instances of mistreatment it has uncovered.
The report also deals with the investigation by the Tribunal into a claim that conversations between solicitors and persons detained in Letterkenny Garda station were secretly recorded by members of An Garda Síochána. The report concludes that this allegation is false.
The report also makes a number of recommendations arising from its findings, mainly centred on how improvements could be made to the law and practice relating to the conduct of interviews with persons in Garda custody, but also touching on other aspects of Garda investigations. The Minister will now, in consultation with the Garda Commissioner, carefully consider the recommendations and bring forward any necessary proposals for change.
Commenting on the report, the Minister stated: "This latest report of the Morris Tribunal, which deals mainly with the arrest and detention of a number of persons during the investigation into the death of Mr Barron, finds that some persons were treated very badly by individual members of An Garda Síochána. The investigation into the death of Mr Barron, as we already substantially knew from previous reports, was found by the Tribunal to be deeply flawed and to have included conduct by individual members of An Garda Síochána which was utterly unprofessional and at times unlawful. Arrests were made with no proper basis in law, and persons in custody were ill-treated. This type of behaviour has no place in a disciplined police service.
The disgraceful behaviour of a small number of Gardaí in Donegal during a period in the 1990s should not be allowed to overshadow the dedication to the State and to public service shown by the vast majority of members down through the years. It is important to make it clear at this juncture that very significant reforms have now been put in place, arising from findings of previous reports of the Morris Tribunal, which greatly strengthen the protection of the rights of persons in Garda custody. These include the establishment of the independent Garda Ombudsman Commission, the introduction of new Garda Discipline and Whistleblower Regulations, and new accountability requirements for every member of the Force. It is also the case that interviews of persons in Garda custody are now videotaped, which is a strong safeguard against any repetition of the type of ill-treatment in custody found in this report. Nevertheless, findings of this nature leave no room whatever for complacency. I will therefore carefully examine the recommendations in this latest report, in consultation with the Garda Commissioner, to see what additional steps could or should be taken to further strengthen the regulations and procedures relating to the treatment of persons in Garda custody.
As with previous reports, there will also be an opportunity for Dáil Éireann to discuss the findings of this report at the appropriate time. I want to thank Mr. Justice Morris and his team for producing this comprehensive and conclusive report."
The sixth Report of the Morris Tribunal is available on the Department’s website, www.justice.ie
7 May 2008
Note for Editors
This is the sixth Report of the Tribunal. The Report deals with the arrest and detention of each of twelve suspects in connection with the death of Mr Richard Barron in 1996 in Raphoe in Co. Donegal. It also deals with the alleged bugging of interview and visitors’ rooms at Letterkenny Garda Station in December 1996.
The Tribunal's first report was published in July 2004, its second in June 2005 and its third, fourth and fifth in August 2006. Publication of the third, fourth and fifth was delayed for some months owing to an outstanding criminal prosecution.
The Tribunal has now completed all of its oral hearings (in excess of 650 days) although two further reports are awaited.
Theses relate to Term of Reference (c) concerning allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family and associates, Term of Reference (j) concerning the effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Complaints Inquiry process in that regard and Term of Reference (h) concerning information received by Deputies Jim Higgins and Brendan Howlin that two senior members of An Garda Síochána may have acted with impropriety.
Terms of Reference for Morris Tribunal
a) The making of extortion and hoax telephone calls to the home of Michael and Charlotte Peoples on 9th November, 1996 and the subsequent Garda investigation into that complaint;
b) Investigations in relation to the death of Mr. Richie Barron of Raphoe, Co. Donegal on 14th October, 1996 with particular reference to the arrest and treatment of persons in custody in connection with that investigation, the progress, management and effectiveness of the Garda investigation with particular reference to the management of informants;
c) Allegations of harassment of the McBrearty family of Raphoe, County Donegal and of relatives, associates and agents of that family by members of An Garda Síochána subsequent to the death of Mr. Barron including the issue and prosecution of summonses relating to offences alleged to have occurred between 28th October, 1996 and 28th September, 1998;
d) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Mark McConnell on 1st October, 1998 and Michael Peoples on 6th May, 1999;
e) Complaints that some Gardaí in County Donegal may have been involved in hoax explosives and bomb-making equipment finds (in particular discoveries on 11th September, 1993, 19th November, 1993, 11th January, 1994, 14th March, 1994, 4th June, 1994, 13th June, 1994 and 18th July, 1994) and a review of the management and investigation of these issues;
f) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of Frank McBrearty Jnr. on 4th February, 1997 and his subsequent prosecution in the Circuit Criminal Court in relation to an alleged assault in December, 1996 on Edward Moss with particular reference to the Garda investigation and the management of both the investigation and the role of the Gardaí in the subsequent prosecution;
g) Allegations relating to the Garda investigation of an arson attack on property situated on the site of the telecommunications mast at Ardara, County Donegal in October/November 1996;
h) Allegations contained in documents received by Deputy Jim Higgins on 25th June, 2000 and in information received by Deputy Brendan Howlin on 25th June, 2000 that two senior members of An Garda Síochána may have acted with impropriety;
i) The circumstances surrounding the arrest and detention of seven persons at Burnfoot, County Donegal on 23rd May, 1998 and the investigation relating thereto;
j) The effectiveness of the Garda Síochána Complaints inquiry process vis-à-vis the complaints made by Frank McBrearty Snr. and his family between 1997 and 2001.