Garda blunders ‘allowed murder to occur’

A series of garda blunders culminated in a man murdering his own mother at a time when he should have been behind bars, according to a damning report from the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (Gsoc).

Noreen Kelly-Eadon, 46, was found with multiple stab wounds in her home at Derrynacrieve, Islandeady, near Castlebar, Co Mayo, on March 9, 2012, one day before her then 19-year-old son, Celyn Eadon, was due to appear in Achill District Court. He would have been in jail at the time had a court order remanding him in custody been adhered to or the prepared warrant given to gardaí executed.

What ultimately happened to the warrant remains unknown because the original has gone missing and a copy was not retained, said Gsoc.

The catastrophic consequences of Garda deficiencies in cases such as this had “a significant negative impact upon the public’s confidence of the criminal justice system”, Gsoc said in the report.

Publishing the report, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she very much regretted the tragedy that had occurred. “Obviously, the main issue at this stage is to ensure that such a serious breakdown at operational level should not happen again,” she said.

In addition to not executing the warrant, gardaí had also mistakenly believed Mr Eadon had been granted bail on February 16 when he appeared at Castlebar District Court. While he was granted bail in relation to a new charge of theft, but remanded in custody to appear at Achill District Court on March 10 in relation to 17 other summonses, primarily road traffic offences.

Gsoc found that “a number of members of the Garda Síochána who were present in the courtroom were of the view that Mr Eadon had been released on bail on all matters”.

“Mr Eadon was then accompanied outside the courthouse by one of he members who had escorted him from Castlerea Prison. Mr Eadon collected his property from a waiting taxi and then left with his mother,” Gsoc said.

A committal warrant was issued later that day in respect of Mr Eadon and while the names of gardaí tasked to execute warrants are written on the back of them, Gsoc said it acknowledged there was a dispute as to whether names had been written on the back of Mr Eadon’s warrant. In any event another garda “formed the opinion that there was a doubt about the validity of the warrant”, Gsoc said, and returned it to Castlebar Garda station. What happened to it is unknown, Gsoc said.

Gsoc made seven recommendations on foot of its investigation including that the Garda Síochána and the Irish Prison Service formalise arrangements relating to the escort of remand prisoners by members of the Garda Síochána; that the gardaí review policies and procedures to ensure that members who perform escort duties do so in a consistent and secure manner and that specific instruction and training be given in relation to legislation and court procedures; and that the gardaí review the training and instruction provided to its members who undertake prosecutorial duties and examine the possibility of providing these members with trained (clerical) support.

Gsoc acknowledged the role and responsibilities of the Garda Síochána “in the matters of prisoner escorts, remand hearings and committal warrants cannot be viewed in isolation”.

Ms Fitzgerald said she welcomed Garda plans to develop a strategy on custody management and that further recommendations will be addressed as part of the new Garda Transformation Programme which is being finalised by the garda commissioner.

A Garda spokesperson said: "We are commited to addressing the issues raised in the Gsoc report to make sure such a situation does not occur again."

The Gsoc report is available at http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB15000375

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