Witness claims garda hit schoolboy

4 Dec 2008
The Irish Times

A witness yesterday told the inquest into the death of 14-year-old schoolboy Brian Rossiter that she saw him being hit by a garda while he was being arrested, but this was strongly denied by garda� involved in his arrest and detention.

Anne Marie Hannigan told Cork City Coroner's Court how she was about 15 to 20 feet away when she saw Brian Rossiter and his friend, Anthony O'Sullivan (14), being arrested outside the Piper Inn in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, on the night of September 10th, 2002.

"I only remember one guard. He had his hand held behind his back - as Brian was trying to get away, it looked to me like he was using the other hand to get him down - it looked to me as if he was hitting him into the back of the head to force him forward," she said.

Ms Hannigan said that both Brian Rossiter and Anthony O'Sullivan were screaming and shouting as they were being arrested and, while they were trying to get away, she felt they were being "handled roughly" considering their age. "I remember a flashlight being used - a guard was hitting them [with it]. I cannot say whether it was on Brian or Anthony," said Ms Hannigan.

She refrained from identifying the garda at the request of Cork city coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane.

Questioned by barrister Caroline Cummins, for six named officers, Ms Hannigan said she was the sister of Noel Hannigan who had been convicted of assaulting Brian Rossiter on September 9th. But she denied she had a personal interest in saying how Brian suffered his injuries.

The inquest also heard from Det Garda Daniel Quinlan, who had pursued both Brian Rossiter and Anthony O'Sullivan and assisted in the arrest of Mr O'Sullivan, whose custody record showed that he was bleeding from the nose when he arrived at Clonmel Garda station.

Det Garda Quinlan said he played no part in the arrest or restraint of Brian Rossiter and, when asked by barrister Aidan Doyle, for the Rossiter family, if he had used his torch to assault Anthony O'Sullivan, he strongly rejected the suggestion.

"There was no use of a torch other than the fact that I had the torch and I did not strike Anthony O'Sullivan," said Det Garda Quinlan. He suggested Anthony O'Sullivan may have got a bloody nose when he ran into another officer, Garda P�draig Jennings, while fleeing.

Garda Jennings told the inquest how he and a colleague, Garda P�draig Frawley, spotted Det Garda Quinlan pursuing two youths near the Piper Inn and went to assist Det Garda Quinlan, who asked him to stand by the side door of the Piper Inn where one youth had entered.

The youth, Anthony O'Sullivan, burst out from the side exit and ran straight into him and he used an arm lock to restrain him, said Garda Jennings, adding that Det Garda Quinlan assisted him and in the struggle, he (Det Garda Quinlan) dropped his torch and it smashed. Det Garda Quinlan then asked him to search for the other youth and he spotted a pair of legs protruding from under a parked car in the car park. Brian Rossiter crawled out and he could see he was very intoxicated, under the influence of drugs and very aggressive.

Garda Jennings told Brian Rossiter he was arresting him for a public order offence and did so with assistance from Garda Frawley, and because they didn't have any handcuffs, they restrained him by putting his arms behind his back and escorted him to the Garda station. Garda Jennings said nothing happened to Brian that could have caused him injury when he was being arrested or brought to the station.

The inquest resumes on December 11th.

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