Wednesday, 23 March 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
In July 1997, Dean Lyons, a homeless heroin addict, was arrested and questioned in connection with the brutal killing of two vulnerable women in sheltered health board accommodation in Grangegorman. He was questioned by detective gardaí in a video and tape recording suite and, as was his wont, admitted to every charge put to him. His parents said he was completely disoriented and was swaying and slurring his words. After they left him he was questioned again but this time there was no video or audio taping. As a result, he made a written statement containing a chronologically correct narrative about the murders in clear grammatical English and with vivid and chilling accuracy he described the murder scene. On the basis of his confession he was charged with the murders. If his trial had proceeded, it would have been impossible for him to withdraw a confession that contained such accurate and unpublished detail. We know now that Dean Lyons did not commit the Grangegorman murders and the Garda Commissioner has apologised to his family.
A number of questions arise, fundamental questions that so far neither the Garda nor the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has answered. How did it transpire that a strung-out heroin addict confessed in such a manner and in such accurate and unpublished detail when he did not commit the murders? Only the real killer and the investigating gardaí could have known the detail in his statement.
There is no need for me to spell out the only reasonable inference to be drawn. It is, unless it can somehow be explained, a profoundly disturbing inference for the administration of justice in this democracy. Why was Dean Lyons held in custody for eight months and then released without explanation? Why was another man who confessed to the Grangegorman murders never brought to trial?
The internal inquiry conducted by the Garda Síochána has been kept secret and up to now the Minister, Deputy McDowell, has demonstrated little public interest in confronting the implications of this case or in allaying public disquiet. This was a particularly unequal confrontation between the forces of the State and one of its more inadequate citizens. Law-abiding citizens cannot avoid the conclusion that Dean Lyons, for whatever reason, was stitched up by a member or members of the Garda Síochána for a crime he did not commit.
Two vulnerable women have been murdered and the murder remains unsolved. Could it happen again? The Minister must confront the implications of this case made in my submission. He must cause these extraordinary events to be properly investigated and report the outcome and conclusions to this House together with whatever recommendations are necessary to protect against a recurrence.
Mr. McDowell: I thank Deputy Rabbitte for raising this matter. The facts of this case have been outlined to the House on a number of occasions. I do not propose to set them out again in full, but a brief summary may be helpful.
The main facts, as notified to me by the Garda authorities, are as follows. Sylvia Shiels and Mary Callinan were murdered on the night of 6-7 March 1997 as they were sleeping. Public reaction to the murders and the reaction of the House were ones of strong condemnation. In July of that year, the late Mr. Dean Lyons apparently made a full confession to investigating Garda officers of his alleged guilt in the double murder. This confession was recorded on audio-video tape. Later the same day he apparently signed a further detailed written admission of his alleged involvement in the murders. It is claimed that at his request this second interview was not audio-visually recorded.
Following consultation between the Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Dean Lyons was charged with one of the murders at Grangegorman. In August 1997, another person, who had been arrested and detained during the investigation of another double murder, made a confession with regard to the Grangegorman murders. However, that person later retracted those admissions. This all happened before the change of Government.
As a result of the admissions made by the second person, the Garda Commissioner appointed an assistant commissioner to review all available evidence on these murders. The Garda authorities state that this investigation indicated that Mr. Lyons did not commit the murders in question. The assistant commissioner was also of the view that the inquiry established that the manner in which Mr. Lyons had been interviewed with regard to the case was in compliance with the regulations that had come into effect a short time earlier on 1 March.
Following completion of this review, the assistant commissioner submitted a report to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In April 1998, after consideration of the report, the Director of Public Prosecutions decided that criminal proceedings against Mr. Lyons should be discontinued. In July 1999, Mr. Lyons, at his solicitor’s offices, presented a signed and witnessed statement denying any involvement in the Grangegorman murders. Having considered the file submitted to him by the Garda on the second individual, who had confessed to the murders and later retracted the confession, the DPP decided that no prosecution should take place against any person.
As the House is aware, when the DPP decides not to prosecute in a particular case, the reasons for the decision are given to the Chief State Solicitor and the investigating gardaí. The director has stated that it is not his policy to disclose this information otherwise. The Supreme Court has upheld this policy. The function with regard to the prosecution of alleged offences is the responsibility of the Director of Public Prosecutions who is independent in the exercise of his functions. It would, therefore, not be appropriate to intervene or comment on his decisions.
As the Deputy stated, the Garda Síochána press and public relations office published on 24 February on behalf of the Garda Commissioner a notice in a number of newspapers in which it stated that it is satisfied that Dean Lyons had no participation in the murders and that the Garda appreciate the embarrassment suffered by his family as a result of criminal charges preferred against him and subsequently withdrawn. The Garda Síochána regrets and apologises to the family of Mr. Lyons for any embarrassment caused. I have already expressed the hope that this apology will bring closure for the Lyons family.
The Deputy nonetheless requests a full investigation into the circumstances of the charging of Mr. Lyons. Consideration of his request would have to be in conjunction with consideration of representations received by me from solicitors representing the sister of one of the victims which request that there be an independent public inquiry into the Garda investigation of the murder. The request is grounded on the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights.
I indicated to the House previously that I am not satisfied that the Garda investigation has fallen short of the standard required by the European Convention on Human Rights or of the potential effectiveness of a full public tribunal of inquiry. However, in view of the matters raised, and to assist me in my consideration of the request, I asked the solicitor to whom I have already referred to outline in further detail the reasons he considers a public inquiry to be necessary. I have received a response and, while it does not put forward further details, I referred the correspondence to the Attorney General. In addition, I expect to receive a detailed report, which I requested from the Garda authorities on matters arising in this case. I will consider the matter further, taking into account any further submissions made to me, advice from the Attorney General and the further report from the Garda authorities.
As I previously indicated to the House, the Deputy will appreciate that the criminal investigation into these two murders is not closed and this would have clear implications for what further action, if any, I may consider. As a general principle, the release into the public domain of any existing report on the conduct of an investigation which is not closed, the holding of an inquiry or the issuing of an explanation of events, all of which have been suggested in this case, may be prejudicial to any prosecution with regard to crimes which might be commenced in the future. Therefore, I would also have to consult with the DPP as to whether any publication of a new report would tend to prejudice the live possibility of a prosecution.
A statutory provision exists under section 12 of the Dublin Police Act 1924, as amended recently and updated by section 15(4) of the Garda Síochána Complaints Act 1986, for me to appoint a person to conduct a sworn inquiry into any allegation of misuse of powers by a member of the Garda Síochána. I will inform the House when I have completed my consideration of the matter.
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