20 October 2005

McDowell dismisses Rossiter family

Irish Examiner

By Caroline O’Doherty
20 October 2005

JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell has dismissed claims by the family of a schoolboy who died after a night in garda custody that they will not have a barrister of their choice at the inquiry into his death.
Mr McDowell denied that limiting the fees available to barristers working on the inquiry would restrict the family’s choice of legal expert to represent them in the proceedings.

The family of 14-year-old Brian Rossiter who died in unclear circumstances after a night in Clonmel Garda Station in 2002, have claimed they cannot get an experienced senior counsel to work for the State-paid daily rate of €1,008 laid down by new legislation governing statutory inquiries. Brian’s father, Pat Rossiter, said the family would not be able to co-operate with the inquiry if the ceiling on fees was not lifted as they could not afford to fund a legal team themselves.

Mr McDowell said there was no need for the family to boycott the hearings. “I don’t believe there are no senior counsel that will work for €1,008,” he told RTÉ Radio. “This is the rate the Government has set for all inquiries. There is not a system whereby everybody can retain any lawyer they like at whatever rate the lawyer wants. I am not going to be pressurised into breaking a firm Government decision on this matter by somebody saying that they cannot get a senior counsel to represent them.”

The minister added that the family would get their personal expenses if they participated in the inquiry. He acknowledged that the Garda Representative Association was in a position to provide funds to gardaí appearing at the inquiry to boost their budget for barristers, but he said he understood this would not happen in this case.

Mr McDowell said the family should contact the barristers’ professional body, the Bar Council, who would find a senior counsel to work at the set rate. A Bar Council spokeswoman said they would try to help if approached but could not oblige a barrister to work for a rate they felt insufficient.

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