Mar 252008

In 2002, 14-year-old Brian Rossiter came home with a black eye and headaches after being attacked by a man in Clonmel. Two days later he was arrested on a public order charge. His father, Pat Rossiter, received a phone call from the gardai asking him to come to the station where they told him that Brian had overdosed on drugs and alcohol. When the police told him that his son had been on a drink and drugs binge for four or five days, Pat Rossiter consented to the child’s detention overnight because he felt a shock would teach him a lesson.

Pat Rossiter, unlike a Garda, is not a professional and therefore wouldn’t know that it is illegal to detain a child in this way.

The Gardai, who did know that it was illegal, imprisoned the child anyway.

The following morning Brian was taken to hospital having been found comatose in the cell. Pat Rossiter received a phone call from the gardai to say that his son had gone cold turkey and was in withdrawal. He went to the hospital and met detectives who suggested to him that Brian had taken a lot of ecstasy and had overdosed. The police also told doctors at the hospital that Brian had taken fifteen to seventeen ecstasy tablets, and later informed the State Pathologist that Brian had taken a large amount of drugs and alcohol. In reality, as subsequent tests showed, Brian Rossiter had no drugs or alcohol in his system. On the other hand, when admitted to hospital from police custody, the fourteen-year-old displayed symptoms consistent with having been punched or kicked in the groin.

Brian died.

A local man, Noel Hannigan, 25, was subsequently arrested and charged with assault causing harm for head-butting the child. When his case came to court, the police added an additional charge of manslaughter without consulting the Director of Public Prosecutions — a charge immediately withdrawn on the instructions of the DPP, who announced that it had been added without his approval.

The State Pathologist found on post mortem examination that Brian died of a slow haemorrhage, most likely caused by the assault, but was later contradicted by two British pathologists, who concluded that the child had died as a result of an injury inflicted while in police custody or immediately preceding his arrest, and not 36 hours earlier, when he was assaulted by Noel Hannigan.

Just over two years after his son was killed, while walking home with relatives, Pat Rossiter, was also arrested on public order charges — an increasingly common, and convenient, reason for arrest in Ireland. Interestingly, this arrest was made by the same policeman who had been in charge of the station the night young Brian died. Pat Rossiter was thrown into the same cell his son had died in, where he had to spend an entire tortured night. When his case came to court, the arresting guard told the court that he did not know who Mr Rossiter was when he arrested him, even though Mr Rossiter is a well-known taxi driver in the town. He also stated that he was unaware of the case Mr Rossiter had taken against an Garda Síochána. The Court threw out the case. Declaring that the charges were groundless, the Judge was highly critical of the Garda evidence against Mr Rossiter.

The Minister for Justice set up a statutory inquiry into the events surrounding the death of Brian Rossiter, but under a very restrictive and obscure piece of legislation that does not allow witnesses to be compelled, or provide protection against actions for defamation. Its terms of reference were severely limited, prompting this complaint from the Rossiters’ lawyer: the terms of reference for the Inquiry do not include an investigation of the cause of Brian Rossiter’s death. Neither is the inquiry tasked with forming an opinion on who killed Brian.

Here are the precise terms of reference:

That the arrest of Brian Rossiter of 11 Mount Prospect, Clonard, County Wexford in Clonmel on the 10th day of September 2002 was unlawful;

That the said Brian Rossiter was unlawfully assaulted during the course of his arrest and detention;

That the Criminal Justice Act 1984 (Treatment of Persons in Custody in Garda Síochána Stations) Regulations 1987 (S.I. No. 119/1987) were infringed in relation to the detention of the said Brian Rossiter

That the detention in Clonmel Garda Station of the said Brian Rossiter was unlawful;

That ambulance personnel, medical personnel and/or Dr. Marie Cassidy [State pathologist] were wrongfully given incorrect information concerning the consumption of alcohol and drugs by the said Brian Rossiter;

That all the circumstances of the death of the said Brian Rossiter were not fully investigated and all witnesses were not interviewed

Nothing there about who killed the child or how he was killed, you’ll notice.

Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings and limitations, the report is now complete and Pat Rossiter has received a copy.

I know what happened to my son, he says.

The family’s lawyer has written to the minister asking what will be done about “very serious findings against named gardai”.

The minister’s office has said that an abridged version of the report will be issued “within weeks” and I’ll have a lot more to say about that when it comes out.



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  39 Responses to “Brian Rossiter — Report on Death of Child in Custody Due Shortly”

Comments (39)

    This is horrendous by all accounts. I do hope there will be some form of justice in this. My thoughts are with the family.


    To Brian’s family. Hold strong, it will all come out as it must. I often think of Brian and his family. You are not forgotten by ordinary people. Brian was very special and nothing can change that. It will be put to rights. Best Wishes from a family in similar quagmire. You are not alone and never will be. Love …Pam Flynn, Dublin


    What a tragic mess. That poor family.


    Keep plugging away at this Bock. I just hope that, when the truth does comes out, those responsible are punished to the fullest extent of the law.


    I know a bit about Clonmel, not much, but a bit. There are some really unpleasant elements there. I am not for a moment suggesting that the Rossiters are among them. I have wondered on several occasions if nasty crooks and nasty lawmen go hand in hand. Does one cause the other? Which comes first?


    Andrew: that link was already in the post.


    Good post. I’m glad to see this hasn’t gone away.

    I remember Vincent Browne raised questions in Village magazine on a number of occasions but, as I hadn’t heard any more about it, I thought it has been swept under the carpet.

    Keep it up.


    Dear Bock

    Good for you for making this public. How did you come to hear about it? There seems to be increasing incidents of children being hurt in police custody.

    I look forward to reading the report when it comes out.


    The Gardai exists to protect the interests of the State, as it is an apparatus of the State. The only means of protecting citizens from the State is complete transparency and constant review of its apparatus’ actions, towards completing the most accurate narrative possible from which judgements can be made and reactions decided on. The narrative here is being driven by the Gardai and has been from the start and is based on obfuscation and presenting fallacy as fact. By limiting the terms of reference the State is providing gaps in the narrative that the Gardai can fill to its own end, which is at the very least self-protection and at worst the ability to abuse citizens as it sees fit.
    Focussing on the particular demonstrates the general, which becomes a tool in arriving at the most accurate narrative possible. Where the State prohibits the necessary transparency, it becomes the job of the concerned individual to engineer a version of that transparency by demonstrating its absence, and you’re doing a damn good job on it Bock.


    I hadn’t read about this. An absolutely shocking story. But so familiar to anyone who knows what police forces get up to when they think nobody’s looking.


    Hi Bock

    It’s link number 5 [What the media reported] on Lynch & Partners that’s awry.


    This poor man has lost his son at a young age and the State will not even answer his questions,

    What kind of Country are we living in?


    Hello, good reporting. may I suggest when the childs father or yourself bock has in hand the report, mail it to the university of chicago human rights law division and ask the class to look at it.I could almost gaurantee you that over 90 american law students would besiege the garda station and its supporting judisical system with quantifing questions regarding the murder and sheer neglect of the crime itself.They may not reslove anything for the family but they will certainly make a lot of noise.


    Thanks. That’s what I’ll do. Good idea.


    According to RTE today (April 11 2008) The inquiry found no evidence of him being assaulted at Clonmel Garda station. It also determined there was no evidence to suggest there was an attempt by gardaí to mislead medical personnel attending to Brian Rossiter with incorrect information. The full report will not be published for legal reasons.

    Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan welcomed the report and said he accepted all its findings.

    Eh? … what findings would they be?


    So the report said there was no evidence of assault by Gardai on Brian Rossiter.Well as there was no investigation either that probably explains why.The response of the Gardai to any accusation of wrongdoing on their part is always the same they lie character assassinate the victim his family and any witnessess.You would think a case like this would be treated with the utmost priority yet it was totally the opposite.They are like the priests were,more interested in protecting themselves than bothering about any possible child abusers or other criminals in their midst.I think the Gardai have reached the same stage that the RUC reached.They have to be disbanded and a new police force created.They cannot be allowed to carry on as they are.They are becoming a danger to society.


    Everyone knows who really done it…!!!!!

    and its funny how some of the gardai who were there the night of brians death took early retirement

    R.I.P Brian (Krusty) Rossiter x x x


    Again the level of corruption which in my experience is so common, is highlighted. Sadly our pathetic force has only come under pressure at the cost of a life.

    Like has been said already, I would agree with a new force. As it is I really do hate the police for their constant wrong doing which can be seen, if you’re around the city, every day.

    I would also like to express my symphaty to the Rossiter family. I know this case is old to some, myself somewhat included, but I do also know it’s fresh for you. Although you will never be fully compensated for such a loss, I wish you a successful outcome.


    This case caught my interest.
    Please expalin: (my info from Irish Indo)
    A young fella gets a hiding so bad he cant see out his eyes. His ‘mother’ gives him a Hedex and sends him to bed. WTF???
    A beating that bad and no medical care? Why?
    How did he end up in a cell?

    His ‘father’, after being informed his son is in the slammer with a possible drug overdose….decides to LEAVE him there ‘for his own good’? WHAT THE FUCK????

    Then this father is later arrested for the craic? The cops went out looking for him? Was he ever arrested before?

    An inquirey finds no evidence of foul play in the cell.

    Am I missing something here?

    Are you guys really trying to sell ‘the cops did it’ ? Seriously?

    And its all the Gardai fault? Ahhh the poor parents? Eh?
    PLEASE EXPLAIN, SERIOUSLY make me see the light. And Im NOT a cop.


    Instead of explaining anything to you, I suggest you go and read more about the case. Wouldn’t that be better than listening to “us guys”?


    Deepest sympathies to Brian Rossiters family for their terrible loss. This kind of thing is happening all over the country, on my brothers first night out he was arrested following a minor scuffle with some old friends, taken to a cell and beaten up. It was only when a family friend contacted us at 3am that we were made aware of what happend. We telephoned the Garda station and demanded that a doctor be called to see him. When we arrived the doctor told us to bring him to hospital immediately for a suspected head injury. He had strangle marks around his neck and a swollen nose. Thankfully the hospital said there was nothing to worry about but how easily could this have been another Brian Rossiter story! Best wishes and support to the Rossiter family in their fight for justice for their young son. This kind of brutality has to be stopped.


    Why is everyone so sympathetic towards the family. If they had cared enough about their child, they would have ensured that he was at home. Only 14 years of age and running wild on the streets. It seems that they care more now that he was dead, if they had been proper parents they would have disciplined him and brought him home instead of leaving him there in Garda custody,when he was allegedly on a drink and drugs binge.
    Perhaps the gardai are to blame, but does noone want to point the finger at the parents for failing to look after their son?


    what i find facinating and tragic in equal amounts about the brian rossiter case, is that a 14 year old boy, running around the streets of clonmel, drinking, taking drugs ? well a boy like that of that age and exhibiting anti social behaviour living in limerick, would be called a “scumbag”
    the entire events surrounding brians death are so sad, there is no denying he was a victim….but both the parents and the gardai share responsibility
    what kind of parent tells the gardai to keep their 14 year old son for the night? and what kind of gardai agrees ?


    What kind of parent tells the gardai to keep their 14 year old son for the night?

    Perhaps one who follows the advice of the police.


    The minister of Justice, Equalriy and law reform, Mr. Brian Lenihan set up an enquiry in september 2005 into the death of Brian Rossiter 3 years before in September 2005. This enquiry was carried out by a barrister (Senior Council) Mr. Hugh Hartnertt. He made the following findings after interviewing all witnesses.

    1. Brian Rossiters arrest was lawful, in other words the guard was entitled to arrest him on the night in question.

    2. The enquiry is not satisfied that Brain was assalted during his arrest or his time in custody. In other wiords Mr .Hartnett is happy that the guards did not assault Brain at any stage.



    3. The guards failerd to record certain times in the custody record ie. the time they rang brian’s mother for example.

    4.The detention of Brain in the Garda station was unlawful. In other words there was no legal power to keep brian in the Garda station. He should have been released from custody.


    5. There was no evidence to show that the guards tried to mislead the ambulance staff concerning Brians condition.

    6. The guards failed to properly investigate the circumstances of Brain’s death prior to Mr. Hartnett’s investigation.



    I think we have to accept Mr. Hartnett”s conclusions. He is an independent voice who seems to have done his best to get to the bottom of this tragedy. If we don’t trust Mr. Hartnett’s findings are we saying that every arm of the state, the guards, the minister of Justice, Mr. Hartnett himself is conspiring against us.


    If that is the case maybe the post man is spying on us,watching our every move. Can we trusat anyone. I certainly accept Mr. Hartnett’s findings. If we don’t we might as well throw in the towel.

    Our sympathy should go to the family of Brian and try and help them to move on and find closure rather than to blame.


    This is a disgrace how they get away with this. I grew up with brian was good friends with him. Hopefully the truth will come out as we all know wat really happened. How the guards could walk around after asaulting a young kid like that.. they’ll go straight to hell for doing it. His poor brothers and sister and parents..


    i hope they find out who did this gards are nothin but pigs especially in clonmel hope u and the family are doing ok pat


    im from clonmel and i knew brian,and i can say now that the gaurds in clonmel are SCUMMMMMMMMMMthey beat me as a 16 boy for being drunk,i was just doing what every teenager does and i was enjoying myself,they beat me in a cell kicked me in the back slaped me in the face,garda from clonmel what a scumbag,but people like them get whats coming to them i gaurentee that,i hope brian haunts the scumbag that did this to him


    im Brians brother!!!! and to all u fucking dick heads that say its my parents fault go and kill urselves cos if got a hold of u i would! u havnt a clue what happened u know little details of what went on! so trot on u bunch of fools! n to the rest thanks!!


    im his sister…. all i can say is to hell with the gaurds.
    To anyone who says what kind of parent would tell the gaurds to keep their son in for the night…… my parents were trying to get him to learn a lesson.
    the only people that are to blame for this is the gaurds…..


    Sister. It is with utmost sincerity that I apologise to you if my comment back in ’08 caused you distress.
    I have always avoided the laying of blame in the sometimes vain hope of individual responsibility being carried.
    Since 2008 I have overhauled many views, The very tragic death of a child of a dear friend and wonderful person who will never recover from the loss made me examine all manner of ideals which i harboured.
    As parents we do what we think is best with what we have to work with at the time, I completly understand why ” a lesson learn ” would be a last grasp option.
    The truth is, I know nothing about The Gardai in Clonmel or the deeper circumstances surrounding the loss of your brother, Therefore my comment was falsely opinion based via mere snatches of information.
    My deepest sympathies to you and your family.


    Help the Guards. Beat yourself up.


    R.I.P Brian (KRUSTY) anniversary last Monday …… x x x x


    R.I.P Brian (krusty)!Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


    What happened to this youngfella is scandelous and the guards in Clonmel are fully responsible. Someone should have got locked up for this and the key thrown away

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