Gardaí face legal actions over alleged assaults

GARDAÍ are facing two separate legal actions for compensation over allegations of assault on people in custody, including one from the family of a young teenager who died in a Tipperary garda station.

The parents of Brian Rossiter, 14, from Clonmel are planning to sue the State over his death in September 2002 while being held at a local station.

Pat and Siobhán Rossiter are unhappy with garda claims their son died as a result of injuries he had sustained in a fight with an older man two days before his arrest.

Although an official autopsy report by State pathologist Dr Marie Cassidy supports the view that Mr Rossiter died as a result of bleeding inside the skull "over a few days", his family are not satisfied with its conclusions. They point out that gardaí informed them that their son had been on an alcohol and ecstasy binge at the time of his arrest, even though no traces of drink or drugs were found in his blood. Another youth arrested with Mr Rossiter has alleged that both of them were assaulted while in garda custody.

"You would think that a garda station is the safest place in the world," said Mr Rossiter, who expressed regret that he had given gardaí permission to detain his son overnight because he thought "a short, sharp shock" would teach Brian a valuable lesson.

Meanwhile, a young Dubliner remains in a coma after sustaining what his family claim were life-threatening injuries while being detained at a city centre garda station.

Terence Wheelock, 20, from Summerhill in Dublin's north inner city is in a critical condition on a life-support machine at the Mater Hospital after suffering serious head wounds.

A garda investigation has been launched into the circumstances which led to Mr Wheelock's arrest on June 2 and his subsequent injuries while being held at Store Street station. Garda sources have indicated Mr Wheelock's injuries were the result of a suicide attempt after he had been detained on suspicion of stealing a car. However, the young man's family is demanding explanations for how he received his injuries, including extensive bruising to his arms and legs.

A garda spokesperson yesterday declined to comment on both cases.

The latest problems for An Garda Síochána follow on the heels of the Morris Tribunal report, which detailed corruption among the force in Co Donegal.

It blamed a large number of officers for framing members of the McBrearty family for a murder which did not occur during an investigation which Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy described as "a cock-up" at the weekend.

Unprecedented levels of criticism have been voiced against gardaí this month following a series of controversial incidents involving members of the force.

Another garda was arrested last week for drink driving after he had abandoned his post while on duty at the US embassy in Ballsbridge following a drunken row with a colleague.

Gardaí have also been criticised for delays in concluding an internal investigation into a incident in which an elderly pedestrian was struck by a patrol car which went out of control in the Dublin suburb of Clonskeagh last month. The 74-year-old victim, Mary Seavers, died last week as a result of injuries sustained.

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