In the light of the facts found by me which are specified in chapters 1 – 7 herein, and in this chapter, I have reached the following conclusions:—
SECTION A: — John Carthy — his Family History; his Life; Background; Health; Behaviour and Personality
Abbeylara is a small rural village in county Longford not far from the town of Granard. About a mile from the village on a minor road in the townland of Toneymore there are several adjoining dwellings each on a modest parcel of land. The original houses were built by the local authority in the first decade of the last century and were rented to various tenants. Four of the dwellings feature in subsequent events. The first of these on the Abbeylara side is Walsh’s house; the next is Burke’s dwelling; then the Carthy property, and finally, Farrell’s house. The road climbs from Farrell’s towards the parish church which is near the village on the side opposite the houses. The road is narrow (being 1 7 feet wide) but with a hard shoulder along the boundaries of the dwellings.
It appears that over the years the original tenancies were bought out by the occupiers. John Carthy’s grandfather was the original tenant of their holding. The house was built in 1906 and was subsequently purchased by the family under a tenant purchase scheme in 1961. On the death of the grandfather, the property passed to John Carthy’s father and it was the family home from the time of his parent’s marriage in 1972. Save for periods away in agricultural college and while working in Galway in 1999/2000, John Carthy lived all his life in Abbeylara. The house had particular significance for him because of its association with his grandfather and his father who died in 1990. By coincidence both ancestors died at about the same time of year on a Holy Thursday. As it transpired, 20th April, 2000, the date of John Carthy’s own death, was also Holy Thursday.
In the latter part of the 1990’s the Carthy dwelling was showing its age; it had become dilapidated and had ceased to be fit for occupation as a house. It had reached the stage that in practical terms it required to be replaced by a new house. In August, 1998, Mrs. Carthy wrote to the county council requesting it to provide a new dwelling on the site. The local authority agreed to do so but on terms that, when replaced, the original dwelling would be demolished by the council. In a further letter dated 25th August, 1998 (which was actually written by her son, John, but signed by her) Mrs. Carthy proposed retention of the original dwelling in addition to the new house. The reasons which she advanced in support of that proposition was that the
old house had been the family home since 1902 and they would put forward proposals for the improvement and future maintenance of the building. Although it has not been specifically established in evidence, as John Carthy was the actual author of the letter and the old house was of some importance to him by reason of its association with his late father and earlier ancestors, it is probable that it was primarily his idea to seek that concession from the county council. The latter responded by pointing out that approval for provision of the new house was granted because it was uneconomical to repair the old one; but if Mrs. Carthy proposed to take on that task and repair the house herself, the council would not proceed with providing a new dwelling. That created an obvious difficulty for the Carthy family and the request to retain the old house was not pursued. Its significance is that in 1998, when provision of a new home was in negotiation with the county council, John Carthy appears to have been reluctant to have the original dwelling demolished, notwithstanding its dilapidation and the fact that the new house would be a far superior dwelling for his mother and himself. It underlines the fact that, at times but not always, the old home appears to have had particular importance in his life — a point which re-emerged spectacularly at the time of the siege leading up to his death. A contraindication emerges from the evidence of his cousins, Mrs. Patricia Mahon and Ms Ann Walsh. Mr. Carthy told each of them separately a matter of days before 1 9th April, 2000 when the siege commenced at the old house, that he was looking forward to going back to Galway after his mother was settled in to her new home; that he had no desire to stay in the old dwelling and looked forward to ‘‘getting rid of it’’. However, the manifestation of major mental illness which emerged on 1 9th April, allied to the imminent tenth anniversary of his father’s death, referred to by Dr. Shanley, seems to have revived a compulsive concern about retention of the old house and the perceived need to defend it against all comers which he intimated to his mother soon after the commencement of his violent conduct on 1 9th April.
John Carthy’s history up to the age of 18 years was unexceptional. He was born on 9th October, 1972 and was the elder of two children. His sister, Marie, was two years younger. He had good health and the benefit of primary and secondary education. However, his father became terminally ill and died on Holy Thursday, 1990. This event had a major effect on him. Subsequently, in 1992 and 1993 when treating John Carthy for mental illness at St. Loman’s hospital, Dr. McGeown, psychiatrist, concluded that his patient had never got over his father’s death and continued to blame himself for it in some way. It is of interest that the records of University College Hospital, Galway where he was treated for a manifestation of his mental illness in January, 1999, under the heading ‘‘Significant Life Crisis’’ it was recorded ‘‘death of father eight years ago’’.
In 1991 Mr. Carthy decided to enter third level education and to study agriculture as a boarder at Warrenstown College, Co. Meath. This seems to have been his first time living away from home and it was in the shadow of his father’s death. It was not a success. While there he suffered from depression for the first time. Dr. Cullen, his general medical practitioner, found that his condition was severe. He had no interest in activities; was feeling low and had poor self-esteem. He was preoccupied with his father’s death and was worried about his sister’s Leaving Certificate. His
distress was such that he agreed to enter St. Loman’s psychiatric hospital as an in-patient where he came under the care of Dr. McGeown. A history of depression, hopelessness and suicidal ideation was recorded. The latter comprised one threat of drowning himself. He was described as sometimes feeling completely hopeless and under what he described as a ‘‘terrible burden’’. His energy was impaired and he lost interest in his studies and in his usual recreational activities. Dr. McGeown made a diagnosis of endogenous depressive illness in a person who he described as ‘‘a somewhat diffident sensitive young man’’. He remained under treatment as an in-patient for two weeks after which he returned to college. However, he suffered further bouts of depression there and eventually decided to give up studies at Warrenstown. He gravitated into assorted unskilled employments, notably in the building trade.
John Carthy’s mental illness became exacerbated from time to time and he required three further periods of psychiatric in-patient treatment in St. Loman’s hospital under Dr. McGeown, i.e. in July, 1993; August, 1993 and January, 1995 — all as a voluntary patient. The psychiatrist diagnosed a relapse of unipolar depressive illness in a young man with a fairly strong history of manic depression. The assessment of John Carthy’s personality which the specialist made was again that of a rather sensitive, insecure, diffident young man probably relatively easily upset by any kind of emotional or physical trauma.
The various medical personnel who treated John Carthy endeavoured to keep him in a stable mental state through a range of medication and in general he collaborated in taking the medicines prescribed for him. He appears to have had a significant interest in his illness to the extent of voluntarily attending lectures about it. However, he suffered occasional relapses and in time he also developed hypomania and mania with occasional manifestations of delusion. The latter included an allegation that his mother and sister were seeking to deprive him of land which he thought was his property. In fact the land belonged to his mother and had been promised to him on her death. I am satisfied that there never was any dispute in the family about ownership of the land in question.
In April, 1995 John Carthy was concerned about what he perceived to be lack of progress in his mental treatment and he consulted Dr. Cullen about referral to Dr. David Shanley, a senior psychiatrist at St. Patrick’s hospital in Dublin. The latter carried out a detailed examination and concluded that John Carthy’s unipolar depression had developed aspects of mania or hypomania and he diagnosed bipolar affective disorder from which he continued to have manifestations from time to time for the rest of his life. In short, he had become subject to attacks of elation and also at other times to bouts of depression which might include suicidal ideation. He was liable to swings from ‘‘highs’’ to ‘‘lows’’ or vice-versa, but with substantial periods of normality between them when ongoing medication achieved an appropriate balance in his mental state. He did not have the rare condition known as rapid cycling disorder where the patient does not have periods of normality between bouts. John Carthy’s problems were also exacerbated by excessive consumption of alcohol occasionally which appears to have been associated with manifestations of bipolar
affective disorder. Dr. Shanley introduced an additional medication, lithium, which is a mood stabiliser and an agent for treatment of manic depression. It achieved good results for John Carthy who Dr. Shanley believed was doing his best to overcome his difficulties. It appears that he remained well until 23rd February, 1997 when he was involved as a passenger in a serious car crash. His arm was trapped under the vehicle. He suffered substantial physical injuries and also significant psychological symptoms which related to the accident and not to his mental illness. His legal action arising out of the accident ultimately settled for £22,000.
SECTION B: — The Shotgun — Fears and Allegations
From 1992 John Carthy possessed a licence for a shotgun which he used to shoot game with friends. It was a Russian-made 12 bore, double-barrelled weapon, maintained in good condition. Mr. Patrick Reilly, a fellow member of the Abbeylara gun club with whom Mr. Carthy shot occasionally, described him as being very careful with his firearm. Mr. Bernard Brady, another member of the gun club, who had also shot game with the subject on several occasions confirmed that he handled his gun with care and attention. Mr. Brady stated in evidence that he had confidence in Mr. Carthy and never felt in danger when rough shooting in his company.
John Carthy’s other sporting activity was handball for which he had a substantial reputation. In 1997/8 he was involved in rebuilding the handball court in Abbeylara which had become dilapidated and unfit for use. It appears that a problem emerged after its rehabilitation in that the court was frequently occupied by children and John Carthy had difficulty in finding a convenient slot in which to play. This upset him and appears to have caused him significant annoyance. It was alleged that he threatened to shoot the children but it was not suggested that he took any step to carry out that threat or to frighten the children with his gun. In fact the alleged threats were based on hearsay and, although followed up by the police, it was not possible to trace anyone who had actually heard such a threat. Mr. Carthy denied having threatened anyone. At or about that time he also had a row with a local employer whose wife, Evelyn McLoughlin, complained to the gardaı´ at Granard garda station (where she was a part-time employee), that she feared for her husband’s and her own safety as Mr. Carthy had a gun and was alleged by her to be mentally unstable. She also had heard about his alleged threats to the children. Mrs. McLoughlin made no formal complaint to the gardaı´. At that time Mr. Carthy had caused his solicitor to write to Mr. McLoughlin alleging wrongful dismissal by him and that appears to have given rise to her fears. Her complaints are referred to in another context later in this chapter at section Q.
The end result of the foregoing situation was a decision by relevant garda officers that Mr. Carthy’s shotgun should be taken from him pending further investigation of the allegations. Garda Cassidy was deputed to do so and on 10th August, 1998 he succeeded in obtaining possession of the gun by having resort to a subterfuge. He alleged to Mr. Carthy that a direction had been issued by higher authority that all licensed guns in the area were to be taken into garda custody for inspection. Garda
Cassidy did not inform Mr. Carthy of any allegations made against him about threatening to shoot anyone or about his alleged mental instability. He accepted the alleged explanation and handed over his gun as requested. Garda Cassidy’s reason for adopting a course of deception to obtain the gun from Mr. Carthy was that if he disclosed to him the true reason (i.e., the complaint made and the fear expressed by Mrs. McLoughlin) it is probable that the subject would have refused to voluntarily hand over his gun and a difficult situation would thereby emerge. Mr. Carthy spent much time thereafter endeavouring to recover possession of the weapon from the police. Eventually on 13th November, 1998 he succeeded in doing so, having obtained a letter of support from Dr. Shanley. Thereafter the gun was licensed annually by the gardaı´ in the usual way without any further complaint or allegation about it. As already stated, the gardaı´carried out an investigation about the foregoing complaints but failed to establish any evidence in support of them. No formal complaints were made and the gardaı´ were unable to trace any witness who actually heard John Carthy threaten to use his gun against anyone. It seems likely that if he said any such thing, it was not intended to be taken seriously and was no more than a manifestation of annoyance. There is no doubt that he was upset and distressed by the conduct of Garda Cassidy in taking possession of his shotgun in 1998 for what he later discovered was a spurious reason and it was one of the grounds why he distrusted the Garda Sı´ocha´na.
SECTION C: — The Burning of the Goat Mascot
There was also another reason for John Carthy’s deep animosity towards and distrust of the police. It arose out of a criminal damage offence in September, 1998. The Abbeylara G.A.A. club had reached the Longford county football final. A local publican called William Crawford, who was not well disposed to John Carthy, had obtained a large wooden effigy of a goat and a car transporter having an estimated value of £2,000 on loan from a friend. It was dressed in the club colours and erected at the village green on the transporter where a week later on the night of 22nd/23rd September the entire was destroyed by fire. Garda records at Granard station indicate that at about 1:00 p.m. on the following day John Carthy called and reported that William Crawford was wrongly accusing him of having burnt the goat mascot. It appears that later on that day Garda David Martin from Smear garda station was informed by William Crawford that he had been reliably told by two eyewitnesses that John Carthy was the person who had destroyed the mascot. The location of the offence was not in Garda Martin’s area and he reported it to Garda Turlough Bruen of Granard station to be dealt with by him. The information which he gave Garda Bruen contained little detail and was simply that he, Garda Martin, had confidential information that John Carthy had burnt the mascot and transporter. Without further detail or any investigation by him, Garda Bruen was satisfied that John Carthy was in fact the guilty party and he decided to arrest and interrogate him accordingly. He called to the Carthy home but Mr. Carthy was not there. He asked Mrs. Carthy to tell her son to report to the station at Granard that evening but did not say why. On receiving the message Mr. Carthy thought that it was probably about his gun which was still retained by the police at that time. He called to the station at about 7:30
p.m. where to his surprise he was immediately accused by Garda Bruen of burning the goat mascot which he vehemently denied. It is evident that Garda Bruen accepted without question the information he had been given by Garda Martin despite its paucity of detail and without any investigation by him, and that he firmly believed that Mr. Carthy was responsible for the destruction of the goat mascot on the previous night — a high profile crime which no doubt was of much interest to the people of Abbeylara. Garda Bruen did not regard it as necessary to interview any alleged eyewitness to the offence and appears to have decided that all required of him was to prevail on John Carthy to confess his guilt. The station records state that he arrested the latter at 7:36 p.m., detained him there, and subjected him to two lengthy periods of interrogation in which, throughout, John Carthy proclaimed his innocence. In addition, he alleged subterfuge by the gardaı´ in obtaining possession of his shotgun. Garda Bruen also obtained the assistance of Garda McHugh, who occasionally acted as a relief detective garda in Granard. He was present for both interviews. Contrary to police practice and instruction, no notes were taken by either officer. Garda Bruen’s explanation in evidence was that he intended to take notes but Mr. Carthy was talking too quickly and he was anxious not to interrupt him as that might discourage him from giving his account. I do not accept that explanation. John Carthy’s response was basic and simple. He vehemently denied having any part in the burning of the goat mascot. He had already lodged a formal complaint in the garda station earlier that day about William Crawford’s false allegation. The note required of Garda Bruen would have been the recording of a simple denial which would not discourage the arrestee from giving his account as alleged. Furthermore, there was nothing to hinder Garda McHugh from taking notes. He conceded that fact in evidence and alleged that he did not remember at the time his duty to do so. That explanation is also rejected.
Circa 10:30 p.m. Garda Martin, having made further investigations, phoned Garda Bruen in response to an earlier call from him. The information originally given by William Crawford to Garda Martin was that he, Crawford, had been told by two reliable named persons that they had witnessed John Carthy burning the mascot. This was the basis of Garda Martin’s belief that Mr. Carthy was the culprit. He did not contact either of the alleged eyewitnesses but assumed that Crawford and they were truthful and that John Carthy had in fact been seen committing the crime. Having contacted in response to Garda Bruen’s phone call one of the alleged eyewitnesses he, Garda Martin, discovered that Crawford’s information was untrue. The alleged witness had not seen John Carthy burn the mascot. It transpired that the latter had been wrongly arrested and accused of malicious damage by Garda Bruen. Circa 11:00 p.m. Mr. Carthy was released from custody and made his own way home from Granard station. He obtained a lift by car from a friend, Mr. Bernard Reilly. The latter stated in evidence that John Carthy told him on the way home that he had been arrested by the police and charged with burning the goat mascot notwithstanding his denial of having done so. He was upset and complained to Mr. Reilly that he had had ‘‘a rough time at the station’’. On the following morning Mr. Carthy attended Dr. Cullen, his general practitioner, and consulted him about alleged physical assault by garda officers on the previous night while in detention at Granard station having been arrested and charged with the burning of the goat mascot. He
complained to the doctor, that ‘‘he was sore around his neck’’ and had ‘‘pain in his upper neck’’ which Dr. Cullen specified in his notes as being ‘‘along the left side’’, but he found that the range of neck movement was normal. He did not find bruising on examination but there was tenderness in the area indicated. Dr. Cullen expressed the opinion that the type of tenderness which he found would be consistent with some trauma or application of force. The doctor described John Carthy as being distressed about his treatment by the gardaı´. In his, Dr. Cullen’s, opinion his patient’s agitation was caused by a combination of being accused in the wrong and of being assaulted. He sent Mr. Carthy to Mullingar hospital for x-ray examination. No bony injury was found. Minor soft tissue injury, such as tenderness, would not be apparent on x-ray examination.
In the light of Dr. Cullen’s evidence on this issue, which I found to be patently fair and carefully expressed, it appears that John Carthy was probably subjected to physical abuse while under interrogation by Garda Bruen and Garda McHugh at Granard station on the night of 23rd September, 1998 and falsely accused of burning the goat mascot. Minor injury consistent with the allegations made to Dr. Cullen by Mr. Carthy of police assault while under interrogation indicates the likelihood that he was in fact subjected to some physical abuse while in custody and Dr. Cullen’s conclusion in that regard appears to be well founded. I do not accept the evidence of Gardaı´ Bruen and McHugh that neither of them physically abused the subject while under interrogation after an unjustified arrest and charging with a substantial crime.
As demonstrated by the immediate arrest and interrogation of Mr. Carthy within six minutes of his arrival at Granard station, there is no doubt that Garda Bruen positively believed that Mr. Carthy was guilty of the offence charged and he rejected his emphatic pleas of innocence. It is highly probable that, having recruited Garda McHugh to add further pressure in interrogation, Bruen set about attempting to extort a confession from the detainee. I apprehend that in these circumstances the interrogation would have been robust and that when it failed to achieve its purpose it spilled over into some physical abuse of the accused. When that also failed to achieve a confession of guilt, Garda Bruen realised that he had no evidence to sustain the accusation of crime he had brought against Mr. Carthy and shortly afterwards he learned from Garda Martin that Crawford’s allegation against the accused was untrue and that there was no justification for his arrest. On discovering that information, it would have been evident to Garda Bruen that he was in major difficulty (over and above responsibility for physical assault of a detainee in garda custody) as he was liable to be in serious professional trouble if his performance in connection with the interrogation of Mr. Carthy regarding the destruction of the goat mascot came to the knowledge of his district superintendent, a commander who expected proper conduct by his subordinates. On his own evidence Garda Bruen was guilty of indiscipline and negligence (a) in causing a member of the public to be arrested and accused of a serious crime without proper investigation or cause; (b) in failing to investigate before arrest the strength of the evidence (if any) which might be relied upon by the prosecution in establishing the guilt of the accused; (c) failure to ascertain the identity of and to interview any purported eyewitness to the crime alleged against the accused; (d) failure to ascertain before arrest that no eyewitness
to the crime had been interviewed by Garda Martin or by any other garda officer; (e) failure to carry out any investigation into the accusation made by William Crawford about the alleged destruction of the goat mascot by Mr. Carthy; (f) failure to comply with garda regulations about making notes of what transpired at and what was said during the interrogation of John Carthy or to direct Garda McHugh as his subordinate to take such notes.
The arrest, detention, interrogation and ultimate release of John Carthy on 23rd September, 1998, including the deceased’s allegation of physical assault by his interrogators, was the subject-matter of some investigation by Chief Superintendent Culligan’s enquiry into events at Abbeylara, including the relationship between John Carthy and the local police. However, the Culligan report contains no criticism of Garda Bruen or Garda McHugh and is patently sparse on detail. Notwithstanding obvious serious failures by Garda Bruen in particular, to which I have already referred and which he did not contest in evidence, Superintendent Byrne, who succeeded Superintendent Cullinane on his retirement in August, 1999 as area officer at Granard, did not investigate Garda Bruen’s performance, nor did he ever interview Dr. Cullen about the issue as to whether John Carthy had been subjected to physical abuse while in garda custody under interrogation. It is evident that the history of the subject’s arrest and interrogation about alleged responsibility for the burning of the goat mascot was an episode which was seriously embarrassing for the Garda Sı´ocha´na and not one to which the superintendent would wish to draw attention. Instead, without any further investigation of the matter, Bruen was subsequently promoted to the rank of sergeant. The Tribunal Terms of Reference do not extend to an investigation of how that promotion came about. Both scene commanders are discredited by failure to instruct Detective Sergeant Jackson, the ERU negotiator, fully about the goat mascot arrest and detention of Mr. Carthy and what followed, and also the taking into possession and retention of his shotgun by subterfuge shortly before the mascot arrest and without any evidence in support of hearsay allegations made against him. John Carthy’s attitude towards the police and the reasons for it became of major significance in the conduct of Sergeant Jackson’s attempted negotiations with him during the siege which culminated in his death on 20th April, 2000. If the negotiator had been properly advised as to the cause and extent of John Carthy’s animosity towards and distrust of the police, it might well have had an important bearing on his approach to the deceased and how he (Jackson) should handle the crisis at Abbeylara. He was deprived of important information by the scene commanders.
Another aspect of the misconduct of Garda Bruen regarding the arrest, detention and interrogation of John Carthy and related matters, including accusations of having destroyed the goat mascot, was of particular significance to Mr. Carthy in the context of his mental illness. There is evidence that these matters were etched in his mind and returned many times thereafter, including the period ending in his death. Garda Bruen has stated that at the time of the arrest he was unaware that John Carthy suffered or had suffered from mental illness. I do not accept that evidence. It is unlikely in the context of what had happened in the previous month (August, 1998); i.e., that complaints had been made to gardaı´ at Granard about alleged threats by
John Carthy that caused Sergeant Nally, to decide that the subject’s gun should be taken from him while the allegations were investigated and also details were obtained about his mental health of which some information was known to the police at that time. Gardaı´ Earley, Connolly, Cassidy and Newton and Sergeants Monahan and Nally, both sergeants in charge, were all aware of the foregoing matters. Granard is not a large station. It seems probable that unusual events such as the obtaining possession of Mr. Carthy’s gun and information about alleged threats made by him and about his mental health would tend to become general knowledge in the station. It would be surprising if Garda Bruen or Garda McHugh had heard nothing about any of these matters.
As to the allegation of physical abuse of Mr. Carthy while in police custody; it has been contended that if such abuse had happened on 23rd September, 1998, in all probability he would have referred to it in the course of his meeting with Superintendent Cullinane in the following month. In fact he did not mention on that occasion his arrest about the goat mascot or anything connected with it. It seems to me that it is entirely credible that he made no such complaint at that time. His objective at the meeting with Superintendent Cullinane was to obtain the return of his gun. It is unlikely that he would raise any topic which might militate against that intention. The same observation applies to the fact that John Carthy did not refer to the goat mascot arrest or garda abuse in course of discussions about return of his gun in late October, 1998 with Sergeant Monahan (a sergeant in charge at Granard).
By way of postscript; it is noted that Sergeant Monahan stated in evidence that he was satisfied that John Carthy had nothing to do with the burning of the goat mascot. His opinion is interesting in the context of Garda Bruen’s performance.
SECTION D: — December 1998 — a Relapse in Galway, and subsequent Medical History
At Christmas of that year John Carthy and his mother went to Galway to visit Marie Carthy and to stay with her for the holiday period. Ms Carthy stated in evidence that while in Galway her brother had an episode of bipolar depression and ‘‘he asked to be admitted or he asked me to bring him to the doctor or the hospital or whatever, because he didn’t want to be admitted back to St. Loman’s again and he knew he was sick himself’’. She and her mother brought him to University College Hospital on 26th December and he was admitted as an in-patient. He had complaints of poor sleep for the previous two weeks; feelings of irritability and exhaustion and poor concentration. It appears that he also had periods of elation and the admission note describes him as ‘‘admitting to abusing alcohol whenever he became elated’’. His speech was rapid but he was not suicidal. His mood gradually stabilised and his speech became more normal and coherent. It was also recorded in the hospital note ‘‘he feels he has let everyone down’’ and, as already stated, the ‘‘death of father eight years ago’’ was recorded as a ‘‘significant life crisis’’. He recovered sufficiently to be discharged on 6th January, 1999 as an out-patient. On his discharge he denied
‘‘suicidal ideation, death wish or thoughts of self-harm’’. He was discharged as an out-patient at the end of January and attended Dr. Shanley at that time. He saw Dr. Shanley again on 11th March, 1999. It was found then that his concentration was poor and his appetite was fair. He moved to Galway to work in March, 1999 but was unable to obtain employment for some time. He was living in digs with some other men.
Dr. Shanley saw Mr. Carthy on 11th June, 1999. This was his final consultation with him prior to the date of his death in April, 2000. His mood was a little better then, he was sleeping well and his concentration had improved. His appetite had not yet returned to normal. He had obtained some employment in Galway and was working a few days a week. He was drinking occasionally and smoking up to thirty cigarettes a day. Dr. Shanley was pleased with his progress and thought that his patient seemed to have adapted to living in Galway and to be getting on well there. He was not depressed or elated at that time. Marie Carthy phoned in early April, 2000 to make an appointment for her brother to see Dr. Shanley in Dublin. The date arranged was 20th April. Dr. Shanley conceded that he may have been contacted by Dr. Meagher (Dr. Cullen’s partner) sometime in early 2000 about a recent period of elation suffered by Mr. Carthy which caused Dr. Shanley to alter medication for the time being. He was told that his patient had been off work since 21st January, 2000.
SECTION E: — Four Events in January/February, 2000
Four important events occurred in John Carthy’s life in January/February, 2000. One of them in particular may well have had a great significance in the context of the exacerbation of his mental illness in the last two days of his life and the manifestation by him for the first time of protracted violent conduct of a grievous nature which involved repeated firing of his shotgun in the direction of garda officers near his home on 19th/20th April.
Before examining these events it is useful to look at John Carthy’s character and personality as they appeared at that time. The two senior psychiatrists, Dr. McGeown and Dr. Shanley, who treated him on numerous occasions and at some length for mental illness described their patient as being in the words of Dr. McGeown ‘‘a sensitive, diffident young man, probably relatively easily upset by any kind of physical or emotional trauma’’. Dr. Shanley never witnessed John Carthy being aggressive. In his opinion he did not have an aggressive personality. (‘‘He was a quiet, very sensitive sort of person’’). Dr. Bluett, John Carthy’s general practitioner in Galway, assessed his patient as being ‘‘quiet and affable’’. However, exacerbations of his bipolar disorder from time to time whether depressive, hypomanic or manic brought about substantial deterioration in his personality and on occasions led to delusions. The extent of the deterioration appears to have been related to the gravity of the stress factors affecting his life at a particular time which in turn might spark off excessive drinking or might otherwise lead to a serious exacerbation of his mental condition. Correspondence from John Carthy to which I shall refer presently provides a truly remarkable insight into the mind, nature and character of the author and the
underlying sadness and difficulties in his life which emerged when his mental illness developed further dimensions as time went on. It also underlines the reality of the close personal relationships with his sister and his girlfriend both of which were of fundamental importance to him.
The events in John Carthy’s life in January/February, 2000 to which I have referred are described and commented on in the following passage from a ruling made by me on 19th November, 2004 in response to an application by counsel for the Garda Commissioner and certain junior officers relating to the evidence of a particular person identified as Ms X. The entire of the ruling is contained in Appendix 7.L.
The application relates to written statements and a letter, originally furnished in confidence, which the Tribunal has received from Ms X in which she describes in detail the history of an intimate personal relationship which she had with the late John Carthy while they both resided in Galway in January and February, 2000 and an explanation of how and why it was terminated by her towards the end of February that year. Associated with the latter documents are others, including two letters written by Mr. Carthy to Ms X in February and March 2000; statements obtained by the Tribunal in response made by Mrs. Rose Carthy and Ms Marie Carthy, the mother and sister of the deceased, regarding matters arising out of information given by Ms X. There are also the written responses of Dr. John Sheehan, psychiatrist, and Dr. Ian McKenzie, psychologist, to the information furnished by Ms X. Her personal truthfulness and the veracity of what she has stated has not been contested by counsel for any party to the Tribunal, though some information furnished to her by Mr. Carthy has transpired to be erroneous and may be the product of delusion on his part arising out of a manifestation of his mental illness. Ms X’s counsel, Mr. Patrick McCarthy, S.C., has informed the Tribunal that his instructions are that his client can add nothing further to the information she has given in her statements.
Counsel for both Garda parties submit that the information furnished by Ms X should be the subject-matter of oral testimony to be given by her in public on the ground that it is relevant to issues which the Tribunal is required to address under its Terms of Reference from the Oireachtas. It is further argued that, if held to be relevant, Ms X’s testimony is required by law to be heard in public notwithstanding her prima-facie constitutional right to privacy as an innocent party in respect of an intimate, personal relationship and the harm which publicity is likely to bring about for her.
It is accepted by counsel for all parties that the root issue which I have to determine on the application is whether or not the statements made by Ms X are relevant to any issue which the Tribunal has to determine under its Terms of Reference from the Oireachtas. These are as follows:
‘‘to inquire into the following definite matter of urgent public importance:
— the facts and circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of John Carthy at Abbe ylara, Co. Longford on 20 April, 2000; and to report
to [the Oireachtas] and to make such findings
recommendations as it sees fit in relation to these matters; . . .
The Ms X Statements
Essentially her statements supplement information already known to the Tribunal from evidence which it has received. She confirms that in early January, 2000 she met John Carthy in Galway; there appears to have been an immediate mutual attraction between two persons of similar age and general background. An intimate, personal relationship developed rapidly through, it seems, almost daily contact. She found that John Carthy had a friendly, caring, affectionate personality. He was working at that time and was happy. She describes them as getting on well together and it appears that a real loving relationship was emerging between them. This is borne out by subsequent correspondence which John Carthy had with Ms X. At or about the end of January Mr. Carthy’s situation changed radically in two respects. First, his lease of accommodation ended and he had to find an alternative place to live and also temporary accommodation in the meantime. His friends were unable to help him originally and he told Ms X that his sister, Marie, was not prepared to let him share her one room bed-sit as a temporary measure. In a statement furnished to the Tribunal in response Ms Carthy denies that she was asked by her brother to accommodate him at that time. She stated that she had done so occasionally in the past. The end result was that Ms X provided accommodation for John Carthy with her for a period of weeks. It transpired to be a very distressing time for her.
The second downturn in Mr. Carthy’s life then was the loss of his job and a dispute in that regard which led to trade union involvement and a one-man picket mounted by him at his employer’s premises. He was distressed that his fellow workers, though offering their support originally, failed to give it.
It is evident that the combined effect of the foregoing events comprised a serious quite sudden decline in Mr. Cart hy’s circumstances which lead to a relapse of his mental illness and the onset of a manifestation of mania which brought about a major change in his personality and relationship with Ms X. She described that his attitude towards her changed radically. He became ‘‘domineering, possessive, jealous, argumentative and demanding of her time’’. He remained unemployed and she was obliged to provide for him. He was not physically abusive to her, but he subjected her to ongoing verbal abuse and insults. The end result was that what seemed to be a beautiful personal relationship developing between them was destroyed by a manifestation of his mental illness, probably arising out of the downturn in his life at that time. Ms X appears to have been shattered by John Carthy’s changed personality. Nonetheless she persevered with the relationship for some weeks but, as there appears to have been no improvement in his behaviour, she decided in the end that it could not and ought not to continue and that it would have to be
terminated. And so she brought it to a final end on or about 20th February, 2 000.
John Carthy’s reaction to the termination of the
relationship is contained in a letter
written by him to Ms X in an effort to restore the situation between them. It confirms her account and he recognised that his
conduct towards her, the product
of his mental illness, had brought about what he regarded as a tragedy in his life. It is appropriate to quote the
contents of that letter ..................................................................... as it
not only corroborates Ms X’s information but it explains the extent of John Carthy’s knowledge and appreciation of his mental illness at that time. It also makes clear the importance which he attached to the severing by her of his relationship with her and the fact that he regarded it as a great tragedy in his life. In all probability it was one of the factors which contributed, with other major events, to unbalancing his mind at Abbe ylara two months later to an extent far beyond what had ever happened to him before. His letter is in the following terms:
Tone ymore, Abbe ylara,
I do not want to get you into trouble with your boss, by phoning you at work, I just want to let you know, that I am missing you and let you know howI feel about you.
You know that I believe that a person should not be with someone unless they love them, as I do you. I hope you feel the same, furthermore whatever decision you make I will respect it and will not be pestering you. I think too much of you to upset you any further. I give you my deepest apology for the upset and annoyance I have put you through.
I haven’t told you this before but due to the fact
that from time to timeI get elated (high) has caused me, not to get deeply
involved with someone untilI met you. You are the firstI told about this
problem I have. I have been perfect for quite some time and I’m fine again
thank God. I am sure you can understand somewhat, The way I have been
acting in the last few weeks has put a lot of strain both on you and those closest to me. Marie in particular has been very upset and my friendship with ‘‘Pepper’’ has been put under strain. To them I owe a lot. But it is you [X], I have hurt most and it is this that upsets me most.
I do not wish to use this problem as an excuse for my behaviour but it is this that has made me so impatient and argumentative and so overbearing over the last while. I admire you for your honesty and you should always be in the future as trust is always best, in the long run.
I am sure we would be still together were it not for me being elated and my mood swings.
Being elated has never got me into trouble really but if it means that I have lost you, it has been very costly and ruined my happiness.
When I am ‘‘high’’ everything, must in my mind, be instant. Although it is usually a pleasurable experience being elated causes a lot of frustration for loved ones. As for my feelings at the moment. I have never been as happy with anyone before andI hope all is not lost.
It seemed to me, to be the real thing, ‘‘I never thought love could feel so good’’. I told you on numerous occasions thatI would be honest with you and I mean every word I say.
I feel something this good, only comes along once in a lifetime and I hope all is not lost. My friends could not understand whyI was so happy when I met you, they didn’t realise how much you meant to me and you still do. With the elation goes big ideas, racing thoughts that has left me impatient. I hope you understand. My mood is fine now due to the emptiness and sadness due to missing you.
Maybe I don’t deserve a second bite at the cherry but I believe everyone deserves a second chance. The wayI have been acting irrationally over the past few weeks hasn’t happened for five years up until now. [That statement is untrue in the light of evidence relating to in-patient mental treatment.] So while it has caused a lot of hassle to both you and Marie it is not a persistent problem and I hope you can take this into consideration.
Maybe we could meet to have a chat. I think we owe that to each other. I will be in Galway probably next Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe we could meet then ‘‘hope fully’’.
I hope this letter gives you some idea of how I still feel about you. I hope it also gives you some explanation of the reason for my out of character behaviour which led to this situation.
No matter what has happened you still mean everything to me and I hope we can sort things out. By the way I hope you had a good weekend.
Your happiness is most important to me and I mean that. I could write all night but what I have written, means something to you, hopefully. Its now 1.50 a.m. I should go to bed.
Missing you more than words can say. Love John XXX’’
That letter, and another to Ms X shortly afterwards, did not bring about any change and, it seems, did not weaken her resolve that the relationship should remain terminated.
The next event after the ending of the relationship as established by evidence is that it immediately sparked off conduct by John Carthy on 20th February in Galway which so concerned Mr. Carthy’s sister, Marie, that she orchestrated his arrest by the police for the purpose of an immediate medical examination of him by Dr. Dymphna Horgan (a general
practitioner) while he was in police custody. She found him to be elated but not manifesting signs of serious mental disturbance. She recommended a referral to Dr. Shanley who she was told by John Carthy had been giving him psychiatric treatment. Ms Carthy made an appointment for her brother to see Dr. Shanley at St. Patrick’s Hospital, Dublin on Holy Thursday, 20th April which transpired to be the day on which he was fatally shot.
Evidence has established that John Carthy returned to his home at Abbe ylara. He obtained employment locally but gave it up in the week before his death — probably because of excessive drinking. Serious storm clouds continued to gather in his life. These included the fact that Holy Thursday was the tenth anniversary of his father’s death (a relationship which had been particularly important to him); it coincided with what John Carthy appears to have understood as an imminent disaster i.e. the demolition of the original family home by the local authority as a new house on site had been provided to replace it. The old house had been the Carthy family home for generations. He associated it particularly with his father and grand-father. He did not want it to be destroyed and he seems to have indicated an intention to defend it against all comers, including the Gardaı´, if necessary. It has been clearly established, and it does not seem to be in dispute, that the coalition of perceived disasters in John Carthy’s mind on 18/19/20th April, 2000 finally drove him into a far more grievous manifestation of mental derangement than he had ever displayed before. In particular, it entailed for the first time physical violence and that in an extreme form over a protracted period of about twenty-seven hours, which involved firing from his house thirty shots with his shotgun which were mostly directed at Garda officers who were in his vicinity. It is evident that the manifestation of mental illness displayed by John Carthy at Galway and on other occasions during the previous ten years were of minor significance by comparison with what transpired at Abbeylara and it is evident also that what happened at Galway and/or elsewhere earlier did not constitute an advance warning of the profound change in John Carthy’s conduct which became manifest in the last two days of his life. In short, a further in-depth investigation of his comparatively modest manifestation of mental illness at Galway or earlier, and of the intimate personal relationship between John Carthy and Ms X, are not remotely likely to furnish relevant new information or shed any significant light on the huge manifestation of mental illness displayed by Mr. Carthy at Abbe ylara and how the Garda should have dealt with it in the light of the information then at their disposal or information and assistance which might have been available to them if they had sought it at that time.
I am satisfied that the foregoing assessment is an accurate description of John Carthy’s situation in the final days of his life. In summary, the following events coalesced to create for him an appalling situation with which he was unable to contend.
i. Exacerbation of his mental illness which he realised had destroyed an intimate personal relationship with Ms X which was of fundamental importance to him.
ii. Ms X’s inability to contend with his illness, in particular his changed personality occasioned by it, and her termination of their relationship. His letter to her reveals that because of his mental difficulties since 1990 he had previously refrained from having a close relationship with any other woman. Ms X, therefore, was of very great significance in his life. We know from the family that at the time of the siege, which was two months after Ms X had terminated the relationship, it was known that he was still greatly distressed about it to such an extent that Detective Sergeant Jackson was asked not to refer to Ms X in negotiations with John Carthy as to do so would upset him. The negotiator agreed to that request and did not raise the matter with him.
The tenth anniversary of his father’s death was at hand. By coincidence it coincided with the imminent demolition of the old family home which, as already stated, was intimately connected in the mind of John Carthy with his father and grandfather. He may have been motivated by a desire not to fail them and, in their memory, to defend the old home from destruction.
The evidence indicates clearly that the combination of the foregoing tragedies carried John Carthy into a massive manifestation of his bipolar mental condition and, as already stated, introduced protracted violent conduct which he had never engaged in before. Defence of the old home against all-comers appears to have become the vehement objective of his behaviour. The arrival of the police and commencement of the siege added another dimension of distress and resurrected in John Carthy’s mind his deep animosity towards the Garda Sı´ocha´na arising out of the wrongful seizure of his gun and the goat mascot episode in 1998, including his allegation of physical assault by police interrogators at that time. The end result was readily apparent from his conduct in shooting frequently in the direction of garda officers and his negative response to the repeated efforts of Detective Sergeant Jackson, that John Carthy would not negotiate with the police and, in particular, that he would not surrender his gun to them or be seen to capitulate to the gardaı´. Did the scene commanders, their superiors and the negotiator understand the realities of the situation as it emerged and how should they have responded to it?
SECTION F: — The Response of the Garda Sı´ocha´na at Abbeylara
After the first few shots were fired by John Carthy (it seems at no particular target) he told his mother to go to her sister, Mrs. Nancy Walsh’s house nearby. She did so and there met her sister, her niece Ann Walsh, and Ms Alice Farrell, her next door neighbour. All were much upset by John Carthy’s conduct. It was decided that the aid of the police should be sought. Rose Carthy phoned Granard station and informed Garda Gorman of what was happening. Mrs. Mahon, another daughter of Mrs. Walsh, was also telephoned by the family. She notified Dr. Cullen and asked
him to come to the scene which he did shortly afterwards. Three gardaı´ then arrived from Granard, including two armed detectives. Detective Garda Campbell and Garda Gibbons. They parked their patrol car in the Carthy driveway, took cover and endeavoured to negotiate with John Carthy. His response was to fire at and damage the police car. No one was in it at the time. Garda Gibbons, one of the officers who had arrived at the scene, spoke to Dr. Cullen and was warned by him about John Carthy’s animosity towards the police. He did not seek any further detail from the doctor relating to the warning but he did inform Superintendent Shelly, the scene commander, of what he had been told. The latter took no steps to obtain any further information from Dr. Cullen about his warning or regarding Mr. Carthy’s mental state, or medical advice on how the situation might be dealt with.
When first informed of the incident by Mrs. Carthy, Garda Gorman contacted Superintendent Byrne, the area commander at Granard, who was then in Dublin attending a meeting in Garda headquarters. It was arranged that Superintendent Shelly, the area commander in Mullingar, would take charge, pending Superintendent Byrne’s arrival later that night. The former agreed to do so and set about assembling a detachment of ten armed detectives recruited from various stations in the general area and also a group of unarmed uniformed gardaı´. Superintendent Shelly’s plan was to mount an armed cordon around the Carthy house to contain the gunman, and to use uniformed officers to set up roadblocks to prevent traffic from entering the area and also to patrol outlying fields to forestall members of the public from approaching the scene. Occupiers of houses in the immediate vicinity were also moved elsewhere for their safety.
The foregoing plans comprised an appropriate immediate response to the situation and were put in place. However, a practical difficulty was that neither Superintendent Shelly or Superintendent Byrne, who rotated as scene commanders, had prior experience of dealing with any form of armed siege or with dangerous conduct which was motivated by mental illness. The local armed officers had no such experience either. This problem was averted to by Chief Superintendent Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Hickey, the area superiors of the scene commanders. They decided that it was advisable to obtain the benefit of assistance from the Emergency Response Unit, a specialist body which is specifically trained in dealing with armed siege situations. However, the ERU also had no training in contending with a dangerous armed person motivated by mental illness. Detective Inspector (now Superintendent) Hogan of the ERU dispatched to Abbeylara a unit of six officers who were fully armed and equipped to deal with a siege situation. All had been already on duty elsewhere that day. The group comprised a tactical unit of four men under Detective Sergeant Russell; Detective Sergeant (now Superintendent) Michael Jackson as negotiator and Detective Garda (now Detective Sergeant) Sullivan whose function was to assist the latter as messenger and note-taker. Sergeant Jackson had no prior experience as a siege negotiator, but in the previous month had attended a two-week negotiation course organised by the London Metropolitan Police relating to siege situations involving armed criminals with hostages and crisis intervention. Garda Sullivan had no training in negotiation.
Superintendent Shelly, the original scene commander at Abbeylara, who had assembled the local armed officers and uniformed men and had set up the original cordons, was not consulted by his superiors about replacing his armed personnel by the ERU unit — nor was Superintendent Byrne. I do not criticise the decision to recruit the services of a specialist ERU unit to deal with what was obviously a difficult and unique situation, but the risk to morale through implicit criticism of local officers who were already in place should have been reduced by giving their own commander encouragement to prepare his men for the proposed change by an appropriate explanation for it. Evidence emerged subsequently of disquiet of at least one local armed officer, Detective Sergeant Foley, about the ERU performance.
The ERU unit arrived at Abbeylara circa 10:00 p.m. on 19th April. Superintendent Shelly accepted Sergeant Russell as tactical commander at the scene, subject to his (Superintendent Shelly’s) overall authority and that of Superintendent Byrne as scene commanders. It was accepted that the primary tactical objective was to contain John Carthy in his house and to negotiate his surrender. The possibility was adverted to that he might elect to leave his home, armed with his gun in a threatening way, and proceed in a direction determined by him. In that event (which is what ultimately transpired) he would be the object of moving containment by the ERU tactical unit. How this would happen and how it would come to an end was never clearly defined in evidence.
It was also decided, apparently without any objection by Sergeant Russell, that the scene commanders’ personal headquarters would be a police jeep which had been parked on the road between Burke’s gate and the Carthy entrance by the ERU. Other police vehicles, such as the car in which Ms Marie Carthy, Dr. Shanley, Tom Walsh and Martin Shelly were sitting when John Carthy was fatally shot as he walked towards them, were also parked on the road in that area. From time to time, uniformed men and others came to view the scene in the vicinity of the command vehicle. Some were present there when Mr. Carthy vacated his house.
Soon after their arrival, the ERU tactical unit replaced the local armed officers around the Carthy house. The latter group when withdrawn seem to have been left largely to their own devices. They remained in the general vicinity with a vague instruction issued by Superintendent Shelly through Sergeant Foley that their function was to be on stand-by to assist the ERU if required, e.g., to replace any of the latter if injured or killed by John Carthy. If the local armed officers had any significant function at the scene after their replacement by the specialist unit, it was limited to the retention of three or four of them at most. On any view, the remainder had become superfluous. Furthermore, when three additional ERU officers arrived at the scene and took up tactical duty at circa 1:30 p.m. on 20th April, even allowing for rest periods, the requirement for continued retention of any local armed officer appears to have come to an end. All should have been withdrawn then. The continued presence of some of them on and about the road in the vicinity of the command vehicle near Burke’s gate created a potential disaster situation which ought to have been adverted to by the scene commanders and by Sergeant Russell. The account which emerged in evidence about what took place when John Carthy walked up the road in the
Abbeylara direction carrying his gun in what was perceived to be a threatening manner before he was fatally shot, establishes that there was substantial confusion and some panic at that time. This was borne out by Sergeant Russell and others, who were well placed to see what was happening on and about the road in the vicinity of the command vehicle. It is evident that all concerned were taken by surprise and many local (armed and unarmed) and some ERU officers suddenly found themselves in what they perceived to be potentially dangerous situations and some of them appeared not to know what to do.
It is evident that the implications of a sudden emergence of John Carthy armed in a threatening way on the road outside his dwelling had not been thought out and no specific preparations were made for that eventuality. The situation at the scene which had pertained from the beginning was allowed to prevail and, as stated already, it had an obvious potential for disaster in the following respects:
i. The command vehicle and those on the road in its vicinity were vulnerable to attack by Mr. Carthy. Superintendent Shelly, the scene commander, who had to run for cover was one of those exposed to potential danger.
ii. Various armed and unarmed uniformed police on and about the road in the vicinity of Burke’s and Walsh’s properties were exposed to potential danger.
A possibility of a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation existed as Mr. Carthy walked up the road and there was an obvious risk of it developing into a shooting involving a local gun or local guns on the Abbeylara side of the road and ERU men in the vicinity of John Carthy as he walked towards the village.
iv. Sergeant Foley, who was with Garda Boland (both of whom were armed and on the road near the command vehicle), has stated in evidence that he feared for their lives. He drew his gun and was within an instant of firing at John Carthy when shooting by ERU men commenced and the deceased was fatally injured. Sergeant Foley stated when examined in the Culligan investigation, and repeated in evidence to the Tribunal, that he felt compelled to shoot John Carthy because the ERU were taking no action against him and he believed that the specialists had left it to Boland and him to defend themselves. He denied having fired at or in the direction of Mr. Carthy before the ERU opened fire on him. It is surprising to find a garda officer gratuitously criticising the conduct of other officers from a specialist unit in the course of their duties in a dangerous, difficult situation. On his own evidence the end result was that, although they were in his opinion dilatory, the ERU men did fire on John Carthy and one of them fatally injured him, thus obviating the need for him (Foley) to open fire. He offered no explanation for his apparent criticism.
On any view the incident described by Sergeant Foley and the evidence of Detective Garda (now Sergeant) McCabe that he shot John Carthy in the back because he feared that the deceased would shoot some officer in the vicinity of the command vehicle, establishes beyond doubt that the presence of Sergeant Foley, Garda Boland and others on and about the road in the vicinity of Burke’s and Walsh’s houses when
John Carthy appeared on the scene created the ingredients of a tragedy which in the event culminated in the deceased’s death.
The scene commanders, in fairness, probably through inexperience and lack of sufficient training in dealing with the difficult situation with which they were confronted, did not appreciate the potentially grievous situation of danger which they allowed to prevail on and about the road to Abbeylara. It is evident also that they did not realise the implications of their failures in that regard. Surprisingly, the senior officers, Chief Superintendent Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Hickey also did not appreciate the potential gravity of the situation which was allowed to persist for many hours.
SECTION G: — Where the ERU is Engaged who should Command?
The fatality which was allowed to happen opens up another major shortcoming in the command structure at Abbeylara and casts serious doubt on the traditional hierarchy of command in the Garda Sı´ocha´na. The scene commanders had little training in that capacity and no practical experience of an armed siege situation — far less one motivated by major mental illness. However, the tactical commander provided by the ERU did have experience of armed sieges and, by an ironic coincidence, he also had some experience of mental illness, having qualified as a psychiatric nurse before joining the police service. It is reasonable to assume that he should have realised the potential danger of siting the command vehicle and garda cars where they were on the Abbeylara road and in having various armed and uniformed police on and about the road in that general vicinity, including casual bystanders. Should he not have foreseen a potentially disastrous situation as eventuated when John Carthy left his house without warning and walked towards Abbeylara? It is not clear to what extent Detective Sergeant Russell appreciated the foregoing dangers and there is no evidence that he took any steps to have vehicles removed; to keep the road clear of police and other personnel and to have all unnecessary officers, in particular the local armed men, dispatched from the scene after arrival of his own reinforcements. However, in fairness to Sergeant Russell, it must be recognised that his superiors put him in a very difficult, if not untenable, situation. It surely must be extremely invidious to find oneself as a junior officer in the position of having to direct senior but inexperienced officers who are scene commanders on how they should do their work and cause them to change structures which they had already put in place at the scene — and all of that happening to the knowledge of local officers and, therefore, adding to the embarrassment of the scene commanders. That situation was liable to be further aggravated by any unhappiness there might be at local level about the introduction of the ERU to the scene and the way that had come about.
The evidence in this case clearly indicates that where it becomes apparent to the local police that one or more armed persons have embarked on continuing grievous violence in a siege situation and it is decided by the highest ranking officers in the area that, after discreet consultation with the local scene commander, to place the
event in the hands of an appropriate unit of the ERU then, in my opinion, command of the operation should pass to an ERU officer preferably of superintendent rank but at least one with the rank of inspector. It seems to me that he should have unfettered responsibility for the following primary matters:
i. The control, placement and direction of all armed officers at the scene. Any local armed officer already at the scene and any other local police who are not required by the ERU commander should be withdrawn.
ii. An instruction that all officers at the scene shall remain in places of safety which are concealed from the building and its environs where the subject is located should he choose while armed to vacate the property in a hostile way. The crucial importance of avoiding the disastrous situation which was allowed to exist and continue at Abbeylara should be impressed on all officers at the scene, including avoidance of any possibility of the happening of a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation.
The concept of ‘‘moving containment’’ should be carefully planned by the ERU commander in the light of the particular circumstances, recorded in writing and then fully explained to all participating officers. The plan must include how moving containment may be ended. As pointed out by Superintendent Matthews of the New Zealand police in his report, it cannot go on indefinitely. Other supplementary aids, such as trained dog teams may be required.
iv. If not provided by the ERU, the local area superintendent should appoint an intelligence officer to keep records and to interview and take statements from relevant witnesses. In a case such as John Carthy where there is the added complication that the subject is motivated not by criminal ideation but by major mental illness, that function would include an urgent consultation with the subject’s medical practitioner to ascertain:
the nature and extent of his mental illness; relevant medical records;
the identity of any specialist who is treating or has treated the subject;
advice on how the crisis presented by the subject might best be dealt with and the reasons for it if known to the doctor;
problems which the doctor perceives might cause difficulty for a negotiator — such as antagonism towards the police; and the reasons for it if known to the doctor;
whether reasonable requests made by the subject, such as one for cigarettes by a heavy smoker, and a request to be put in touch with a solicitor, should, in the interest of calming the situation, be acceded to simply and without conditions, rather than using such requests as bargaining counters which might be appropriate when dealing with a criminal in a siege situation who is not mentally ill;
(g) Whether the primary objective of the negotiator should be to calm the subject?
(h) If so, how that might be achieved.
(i) Whether a negotiating strategy designed to calm the subject by orchestrating apparent ‘‘victories’’ and ‘‘advantages’’ might be appropriate for him and might have a reasonable prospect of success.
All of these matters would have been of great interest to the negotiator in the instant case. Surprisingly, Superintendent Shelly, contrary to advice in the training as scene commander he had received, elected not to appoint a specific intelligence officer but to take on that role himself — even though in Inspector Maguire he seemed to have had a good role model for that task. Why neither he or Superintendent Byrne did not interview Dr. Cullen was an extraordinary omission. Even allowing for lack of prior experience, I am satisfied that basic common sense would point to the importance of meeting Dr. Cullen as soon as possible and seeking his advice on the foregoing matters. If that elementary step had been taken in the early evening of 1 9th April, Dr. Shanley’s involvement as psychiatrist would have been ascertained. It is probable that he could have been brought to Abbeylara before midnight. His advice at the scene on the foregoing points in conjunction with Dr. Cullen and Ms Marie Carthy (who was in a position to provide him with family information and details of recent difficult events in Galway) is likely to have been of great assistance to the negotiator.
It also would have been a matter for the intelligence officer to contact Mr. Regan, the Department of Justice psychologist, with a view to having him brought immediately to Abbeylara to speak to Dr. Cullen and Dr. Shanley in their own professional language and to raise the foregoing and other relevant matters with them which the negotiator and scene commanders as laymen probably would not appreciate. Detective Sergeant Jackson did have the foresight to contact Mr. Regan, a psychologist attached to the Prison Service, but he, probably through no prior experience of, or training in the context of a siege situation not associated with a prison, was unable to offer any assistance and he did not advert to the desirability of coming to Abbeylara or of contacting Dr. Cullen or Dr. Shanley.
I envisage that an ERU officer having been appointed from garda headquarters to take charge of the operation, the function of the area superintendent would be to provide the uniformed outer cordon and traffic check points together with logistical support such as the provision of food etc. and other back-up services which the ERU commander might require.
Where the ERU is introduced as the primary component in a crisis situation, the experience at Abbeylara clearly indicates that a command structure on broadly the foregoing lines is most desirable in the interest of avoiding major problems such as those which happened at Abbeylara and led to the death of John Carthy. This is an
area which requires urgent radical attention. It is also dealt with elsewhere in this report (see Chapter 1 5).
SECTION H: — Criticism of the Garda Sı´ocha´na Response
In fairness to the officers concerned, it is appropriate to preface my assessment of their response to the dangerous crisis situation presented by John Carthy at his home in Abbeylara on 19th/20th April, 2000 by emphasising the following points:
1. The police were called upon to deal with a volatile dangerous situation in a rural area presented by an armed man who appeared to be out of control and who was motivated by a manifestation of acute mental illness. The problem presented by Mr. Carthy was grave and also unique in Irish police experience.
2. Only one officer, Detective Sergeant Russell, the tactical commander of the ERU unit had any significant prior knowledge of mental illness. He had professional experience as a psychiatric nurse prior to entering the police service. There is no evidence that any advice in that regard was sought from him or was given by him during the event.
3. Neither of the scene commanders (Superintendents Shelly and Byrne) had any prior experience of dealing with an armed siege or of any event involving a dangerous armed person. Their training as scene commanders comprised one short course only at the time of promotion some years before the event. They had no training in or experience of dealing with violent conduct motivated by mental illness. The local armed officers at the scene were similarly inexperienced and none had had any prior occasion to use a firearm while on active duty.
4. Detective Sergeant (now Superintendent) Jackson of the ERU, whose function was to act as negotiator at the scene, had no prior experience in that role in an armed siege situation, and, as stated, his training in negotiation comprised a recent two week course which related primarily to negotiations in the context of sieges involving armed criminals. He also had no significant training in dealing with manifestations of mental illness.
The performance of the particular officers concerned should be considered in the light of the foregoing inhibiting factors.
The essence of my investigation of the police performance at Abbeylara and related matters has been to ascertain what was done; to consider whether the structure of the police response was appropriate; whether the scene commanders, the negotiator and other officers had sufficient experience and training to deal with the dangerous, unique situation presented by John Carthy which had no criminal ideation. Were all reasonable steps taken in an effort to diffuse the impasse with John Carthy? If not, what more ought to have been done? Should the circumstances have been avoided which lead to the fatal shooting of the subject? Did the scene commanders and the
negotiator have a sufficient number of appropriate trained personnel and equipment at their disposal and did they have the benefit of expert advice to deal satisfactorily with the situation? If so, did they avail of that advice? Are there lessons to be learned from the Garda Sı´ocha´na response at Abbeylara? These are the issues which I am required to address in this report.
SECTION I: — The Scene Commanders
The officer primarily involved in that role was Superintendent Shelly, then stationed at Mullingar. Superintendent Byrne was the Granard area commander and, as already stated, on 1 9th April, 2000 he was attending a meeting at Garda headquarters in Dublin. In his absence Superintendent Shelly was deputed to go to the scene at Abbeylara and to act as scene commander until relieved by Superintendent Byrne at midnight. Thereafter the two superintendents alternated as scene commander. As already stated, Superintendent Shelly was responsible for assembling a group of ten armed detective officers in plain clothes from Granard, Athlone, Mullingar and Longford together with a group of unarmed uniformed officers. His immediate objective was to detain John Carthy in his house pending the outcome of negotiations with him. He deployed the armed local officers as an inner cordon at vantage points around the property. The uniformed officers were deployed to form road blocks for control of vehicle traffic in the area and as an outer cordon to prevent unauthorised persons approaching the Carthy property. An ERU police jeep was parked on the road between the Burke and Carthy entrances about fifty yards from the Carthy dwelling on the Abbeylara side. It was and remained at all times from arrival of the ERU the command post for the operation. Other police cars were parked in that area from time to time during the siege.
At or about the time of John Carthy’s first armed confrontation with the police, they became aware that the subject suffered from mental illness; that he was on regular medication in that regard; that he had had in-patient treatment at St. Loman’s psychiatric hospital, Mullingar and that his general medical practitioner was Dr. Cullen, who, at the behest of the Carthy family, was at the scene when the first garda officers, Gibbons and White, arrived from Granard. The doctor warned Garda Gibbons that John Carthy was antagonistic towards the police. He was not asked to elaborate on his warning. In fact what Dr. Cullen was referring to was the goat mascot episode which, as already stated, involved the arrest of John Carthy; his detention and interrogation at Granard garda station which resulted in complaints made by him to the doctor on the following morning about physical assault by the interrogators while in police custody.
As already referred to herein, another event occurred shortly before the goat mascot episode which fuelled John Carthy’s antagonism towards and distrust of the gardaı´, i.e., the taking and retention of his gun by the police.
As Granard station is a comparatively small garda unit, it would be surprising if the erroneous detention, arrest and interrogation of John Carthy regarding the goat
mascot burning and the obtaining of his gun by subterfuge was not known to most officers stationed there at the time. It is also surprising that the relevant gun licence file was not promptly referred to Superintendent Shelly or Superintendent Byrne as scene commanders bearing in mind that it disclosed the interest of Dr. Shanley as the subject’s treating psychiatrist. In fact, the evidence is that the gun file did not come to light until the morning of 20th April when sought by Assistant Commissioner Hickey. Early contact with Dr. Shanley soon after the police involvement at Abbeylara would have been highly desirable. All of the experts who were questioned on the matter were of that opinion. It was also part of garda training to do so. All were agreed that when dealing with a subject activated by a manifestation of mental illness it is imperative for those endeavouring to deal with the situation, i.e., scene commanders and negotiators that they should as soon as possible consult with medical experts who are or have been treating the individual and obtain medical advice on how the situation might best be dealt with. Furthermore, Dr. McKenzie and Mr. Lanceley referred to the desirability of having an independent mental health professional at the scene who would have the benefit of ‘‘peer to peer’’ contact with the subject’s own doctors.
At an early stage in the event, the situation presented by John Carthy at Abbeylara, and what was known about him, was reported to Chief Superintendent Tansey, the area commander. He arranged for Superintendent Farrelly, head of the Garda Press Office, to attend at the scene and to deal with the anticipated extensive media interest there. As previously stated, Chief Superintendent Tansey also consulted his provincial superior, Assistant Commissioner Hickey, and they decided that in all the circumstances it was appropriate to obtain the benefit of a team of officers from the Emergency Response Unit. Appropriate arrangements were made. A group of six ERU officers were dispatched to Abbeylara and arrived in the late evening. It comprised four tactical officers under Detective Sergeant Russell; a negotiator, Detective Sergeant Jackson, and Detective Garda O’Sullivan who had no training or experience as a negotiator and whose function was to act as messenger and occasional note-taker for Sergeant Jackson. The ERU tactical team replaced the inner cordon of local armed officers. The latter remained at a further remove from the Carthy house and some took up positions on or about the roadway at the Abbeylara side near the command vehicle parked between the Burke and Carthy entrances. Some uniformed officers were in that vicinity also. The purpose of having local armed officers in the area was not specified, other than a general instruction that they might be called upon to provide a back-up for Sergeant Russell’s tactical team if events so required. They remained under local command. Superintendent Shelly and Sergeant Russell discussed what should be done if John Carthy emerged from his home in three particular circumstances. First, that he emerged without his gun; secondly that he emerged armed but immediately surrendered his gun when called upon to do so; or, thirdly, that he emerged with his gun and would not surrender his weapon. In the latter event it was decided that there should be a policy of ‘‘moving containment’’, i.e., the ERU tactical team would move with the subject in whatever direction was taken by him. They should endeavour to persuade him to surrender his gun and, failing success in that regard, follow him wherever he elected to go. The possibility that John Carthy might decide to leave his house and walk along the road towards
Abbeylara carrying his gun in a threatening way does not appear to have been considered by either scene commander or Sergeant Russell or any other police officer in any meaningful way. No plan was recorded and the implications of the subject’s conduct as it subsequently happened was not considered by anyone in any detail. This was a fundamental mistake. Numerous armed and unarmed local officers were on and about the roadway in the vicinity of the command vehicle. All of them, including the scene commander himself, were at risk of being shot by John Carthy as he walked in their direction holding his gun in what was perceived to be a threatening way. Several of them feared for their lives and were regarded by some ERU officers as being in grave danger and this led to the fatal shooting of John Carthy. The command vehicle and other garda cars in the area should not have been where they were and none of the local gardaı´, armed or unarmed, should have been visible to John Carthy and close at hand as he walked towards Abbeylara. If the road had been clear at the time there would have been no need to shoot the subject in the back. Furthermore, as previously stated, there was an unnecessary proliferation of officers, armed and uniformed, on and about the roadway, some of whom were bystanders who had no business being there.
SECTION J: — A Cover-Up?
The possibility that a local armed officer might have fired his gun at but missed John Carthy as he walked up the road was positively ruled out in evidence by all senior officers, i.e., Superintendent Shelly, Superintendent Byrne, Chief Superintendent Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Hickey although only two of them were present at the time — Superintendent Shelly and Chief Superintendent Tansey who ran for cover when John Carthy appeared on the scene. They all unreservedly accepted at second hand what each of the local officers were alleged to have said, i.e., that none of them had fired his gun. The veracity of that contention is called into question by the following:
1. Why did Detective Sergeant Foley make a crucial observation to Garda Boland (both local armed officers) which was critical of the ERU response to the crisis? In the event, if no local gun had been fired, the criticism was unnecessary as the ERU, though in Foley’s opinion slow to do so, did fire at John Carthy and shot him dead thus removing the need for him or any local gun to fire at the deceased. The criticism of the ERU was first recorded by Sergeant Foley in his statement to the Culligan Inquiry, made soon after the event. It is remarkable to the point of being incredible to find one policeman gratuitously making a major criticism of other officers who comprised a specialist tactical unit. However, Sergeant Foley’s contention would be credible if it was made in the context of laying the ground for his own defence or the defence of a local officer who had fired his gun at John Carthy — an action which he may have perceived would not have been necessary if the ERU officers had been prompt in taking action against the subject.
2. If the senior officers were in fact completely satisfied to accept that no local gun had been fired, then why not remove any possible allegation of a ‘‘blue on blue’’ shot by having all the local guns immediately taken in charge and ballistically examined and proved not to have been fired? This would have been a simple exercise which could have been promptly carried out by one of the ballistics experts.
3. The need for ballistic examination of the local garda guns was also pertinent in the context that, contrary to regulations, station records relating to weapons and ammunition brought to and from the scene by local officers were incomplete. In consequence there were insufficient records to account for all ammunition brought to the scene. In the light of this difficulty it is surprising that no senior officer adverted to the desirability in that context of having the local guns ballisticly examined, and that they all concluded there was no need to do so.
The evidence on this issue is open to the interpretation that a senior officer may have had some concern that a local gun had been or may have been fired at the scene and, to avoid the risk of confirmation, the ballistics expert was instructed not to examine the local guns. However, that contention is denied and the evidence, though substantial, does not go far enough to establish that there was a cover-up on the part of the police regarding the possible firing of any local gun. However, the real issue about which there is coercive evidence relates to the failure of the scene commanders and Detective Sergeant Russell to advert to and prepare for the possibility that John Carthy while armed might leave his house and walk towards Abbeylara.
Whether or not a local gun was actually fired at or in the direction of John Carthy as he walked from his house towards the village is not, per se, a primary matter. The essence of this issue is that Mr. Carthy walked towards the command vehicle in the vicinity of which the scene commander was at that time and there were several local armed and unarmed officers on the roadway, including Sergeant Foley and Garda Boland. The subject is stated by several witnesses to have carried his gun in a dangerous threatening way which put some officers in fear of their lives. There were also three armed ERU officers on the road behind but close to John Carthy as he walked forward, and Sergeant Russell was standing nearby on the Carthy boundary wall. All the ERU men were ignored by the subject. Sergeant Foley’s evidence indicates that he regarded the ERU officers as having failed to protect him and that he and Garda Boland were left with no alternative but to shoot at the subject. Sergeant Foley stated that he had aimed his gun and was within an instant of firing at his target when ERU officers commenced shooting at the deceased and it became unnecessary for him (Foley) to fire also. The foregoing evidence coercively establishes that a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation had emerged, i.e., one which put the ERU and local officers who were on the road in the vicinity of the deceased in danger of being shot by one or more of the local armed officers who were facing them near the command vehicle or in the vicinity of the Burke property — a risk which was all the greater as none of the local officers had prior experience in firing their weapons
in course of duty in such circumstances and all had been caught unawares by Mr. Carthy and, it seems, most did not know what to do.
The root of the problem which was allowed to happen at the scene was the presence of the local officers, including the scene commander, on and about the road close by and in the direction where John Carthy was heading. Detective Garda (now Sergeant) McCabe, who fatally shot the deceased, believed that he was obliged to fire at him because it appeared to him that the local officers on the road were in danger of being shot by the subject. That situation would not have arisen if the Abbeylara road had been kept clear of vehicles, police officers and others at all times. There should have been no local officers or anyone else visible to the deceased and at risk of being threatened or shot by him if he elected to leave his house and do what he did. If there had been no vehicles or police or anyone else visible to John Carthy as he walked towards Abbeylara, there would have been no reason or justification for shooting him in the back. In those circumstances there would have been no one there who might have been threatened by the subject.
Assistant Commissioner Hickey and all of the senior officers concerned denied in evidence that the failure to have the local guns ballistically examined related to a cover-up of an active ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation as John Carthy walked towards Abbeylara, or that it was insurance against a possible discovery that a local gun or guns had been fired at that time. It is not in dispute that the immediate ballistic examination of the local guns would have ruled them out and would have established that in fact none had been fired at the scene, if that was the case. In the end result there is insufficient evidence to establish a ‘‘cover-up’’ relating to the firing of any local gun or a policy of insurance against the possible discovery that a local gun or guns had been fired at the scene. However, there are features to which I have referred which are surprising and cause disquiet.
Detective Sergeant Foley has provided coercive evidence, which has not been disputed, that an actual ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation was about to happen and that he was within an instant of firing at John Carthy when the ERU officers opened fire and fatally injured him, thus obviating the need for Sergeant Foley to carry out his intention. Furthermore, primary police negligence at Abbeylara was failure to prepare for the eventuality that John Carthy might emerge from his premises and do what he did. In particular, in not keeping the Abbeylara road clear of personnel and vehicles at all times in consequence of which a situation of major potential danger was allowed to persist. If a local gun had been fired in confusion or panic it would have been no more than an addition to an already grievous situation which should never have happened.
SECTION K: — Four Crucial Command Mistakes
(a) Investigating urgently Dr. Cullen’s potential importance
Superintendent Shelly’s negligence in not personally interviewing Dr. Cullen (the subject’s general medical practitioner) as a matter of urgency during the evening of
1 9th April or, alternatively, having him interviewed in depth at that time by an experienced senior officer, is extraordinary. (His explanation for not doing so, i.e., his belief that Garda Gibbons had obtained all information available from Dr. Cullen is patently untrue as the superintendent must have been well aware. Among other things, Gibbons did not enquire from the doctor whether the subject was under specialist care. He learned nothing about Dr. Shanley’s involvement, nor did he ask for or receive any of the hospital records and reports in the doctor’s possession and he sought no advice about dealing with the subject having regard to the nature of his mental illness. Garda Gibbons alleges that he sought no explanation for Dr. Cullen’s warning about Mr. Carthy’s antagonism towards the police.) Knowing as he did from very early in his involvement as scene commander at Abbeylara that John Carthy suffered from mental illness which had entailed periods of in-patient treatment at a psychiatric hospital, and that Dr. Cullen was his long-time general medical practitioner, it ought to have been apparent to Superintendent Shelly that in the interest of devising an appropriate negotiating strategy, urgent medical advice from Dr. Cullen and any specialist psychiatrist involved in the case was likely to have been of major importance. This point was emphasised by police and medical experts in evidence. As previously stated, it also was advice given in garda training. He, the scene commander, knew that an ERU strategic group and a negotiator had been dispatched to the scene from Dublin. It is hardly credible that he would not have realised the importance of providing the negotiator immediately on his arrival at Abbeylara with full medical information about the subject and his mental state — yet he failed to ascertain the requisite details in consequence of which Detective Sergeant Jackson, the negotiator, was deprived of a range of information, including the reasons for Mr. Carthy’s vehement distrust of and antagonism towards the police, which was important to the establishment of meaningful rapport with the subject and the structuring of a viable negotiating strategy — neither of which in fact was ever achieved. It seems probable that if properly advised (on the basis of information available from Dr. Cullen but not obtained) Sergeant Jackson would have realised in the first few hours of his attempted negotiation with Mr. Carthy that, having regard to his distrust of and violent attitude towards the gardaı´, the likelihood was that as a police officer he had little or no prospect of establishing any significant rapport with the subject and that an alternative strategy was required. Subsequent events made that very clear. Why was the negotiator deprived of crucial information by Superintendent Shelly’s inaction in having Dr. Cullen fully interrogated by a competent senior officer? There appears to be only two possible explanations. First, the scene commander’s failure was a product of gross negligence — which is hardly credible even allowing for the fact that he had no prior experience as a scene commander in a siege situation — particularly one involving a mentally ill man. The alternative explanation is that the superintendent learned at an early stage of his involvement at Abbeylara that Dr. Cullen’s warning about John Carthy’s antagonism towards the gardaı´ arose out of his arrest, detention and interrogation at Granard garda station when he was wrongly accused of having burnt the goat mascot in September, 1998. He had also alleged then that he had been assaulted by his interrogators and required medical assessment by Dr. Cullen on the following morning. The burning of the goat mascot at Abbeylara was a cause ce´le´bre at the time. Granard is not a large police station. Mr. Carthy’s arrest, detention and
interrogation there, having been wrongly accused of the crime by Detective Garda Bruen, is likely to have been well known to officers at Granard and it would be surprising if Superintendent Shelly was not told about it soon after taking on the role of scene commander. The goat mascot episode was obviously embarrassing for the Garda Sı´ocha´na and, if he learned about it, which seems likely, Superintendent Shelly may have decided that, to avoid the risk of public disclosure at a later date, it was preferable not to go down that road and that the matter of Mr. Carthy’s distrust of and antagonism towards the police should not be pursued with Dr. Cullen. An extraordinary decision made by the scene commander gives credibility to the latter explanation for failure to have Dr. Cullen properly interviewed. Although Superintendent Shelly had the pivotal role of scene commander in a difficult situation of which he had no previous experience, he decided, contrary to his training, to take on personally the important function of intelligence co-ordinator rather than to appoint Inspector Maguire, or some other experienced senior officer such as Sergeant Monahan, to perform that task. The unexplained and unnecessary decision to burden himself with a major additional chore which could have been performed by other competent officers, is credible if his motivation was to ensure as well as he could that embarrassing information was not obtained from Dr. Cullen by another intelligence co-ordinator if one had been appointed. That explanation, unlike the alternative, has a ring of credibility about it. Be that as it may, on any view Superintendent Shelly was negligent in not having Dr. Cullen properly interviewed in depth. Important information urgently required about the subject’s mental illness and treatment was not obtained. As indicated already, experts who were questioned on this matter emphasised the important priority of obtaining all available medical information relating to a situation where a person’s violent behaviour is likely to be the product of mental illness.
(b) Another failure as intelligence coordinator
It is pertinent to state also that Superintendent Shelly appears to have done very little, if anything, in his adopted role of intelligence co-ordinator. As far as the evidence goes, the only person who had meaningful contact with John Carthy during the entire of the siege was his friend, Kevin Ireland, who he phoned by mobile at about noon on 20th April, i.e., six hours before his death. The subject told his friend that he had no intention of shooting any garda officer or himself. He indicated that his purpose in firing his gun was to keep the ERU officers away from his house.
Superintendent Shelly and the negotiator learned about Mr. Carthy’s telephone conversation with Mr. Ireland by way of an inaccurate and garbled fourth-hand version of it. Nothing was done about obtaining directly from Kevin Ireland a detailed account of his conversation as it ultimately emerged in evidence at the Tribunal. Mr. Ireland had phoned Granard garda station and had spoken to Sergeant Monahan. Unfortunately, the latter had not been involved in the Abbeylara siege situation at the scene and he did not interrogate Mr. Ireland as he might have done if he had realised the full significance of the phone call or if he had been specifically instructed to de-brief him in that regard. He failed to ascertain important information about the subject’s motivation and intentions. Sergeant Monahan concentrated on another
aspect of the phone call, i.e., Mr. Carthy’s request to his friend to contact on his behalf a solicitor called Finucane whose address or phone number was not specified by him. The end result was that the negotiator was not apprised of crucial information which emerged from the conversation between Mr. Carthy and his friend, Kevin Ireland — particularly his reason for requiring a solicitor at the scene (i.e., in the context of the possible negotiation of an end to the impasse).
(c) Preparing for the possibility that John Carthy might make an armed uncontrolled exit from his house
It ought to have been apparent to all concerned that Mr. Carthy’s particular agitation and violent conduct within the house during the late afternoon of 20th April probably indicated that he regarded himself as being near the end of his tether at that time. Bearing that in mind, the possibility that he might leave the house armed with his gun became a more likely reality. That being so, the importance of clearing the road to Abbeylara of vehicles, including the command jeep, and all personnel, not only police but civilians also, ought to have been apparent to the scene commander and to the ERU tactical commander. During the afternoon there was plenty of time to take that course and to issue appropriate instructions to all concerned, including emphasising the particular importance that officers in the area should remain concealed and safely under cover at all times. In fact, the enhanced possibility that the subject might do what he did was not adverted to and very little was done to prepare for what actually happened. Members of the ERU inner cordon were not instructed in any detail on their function as moving containment in that event. It is clear that, like other officers at the scene, they were taken by surprise. It would have been of particular interest to members of the cordon and local gardaı´ that John Carthy had told his friend that he had no intention of shooting them — as was made abundantly clear by him when he subsequently emerged from his gateway and ignored several armed ERU officers including three on the road in his immediate vicinity. In the light of Mr. Carthy’s assurance to his friend, Mr. Ireland, that he did not intend to shoot any police officer, allied to his conduct when he emerged onto the road and headed towards the command vehicle in ignoring ERU officers, the apparent risk in overpowering him by rushing him from the rear became less serious, though, of course, it still remained. For example (assuming that the foregoing steps had been taken to clear the road), it occurs to me that as Mr. Carthy walked past Burke’s gate a distraction from the other side of the road might have facilitated rushing him from Burke’s direction. These are no more than possibilities, but they appear to be realistic in the context of the Kevin Ireland conversation, the contents of which was not known to any of the officers at the scene, including Detective Sergeant Russell, the ERU tactical commander. It is likely that he would have been particularly interested in Mr. Ireland’s information in the context of planning some credible means of terminating the intended moving containment if that strategy became necessary. This is a factor to which Superintendent Matthews of the New Zealand police has referred in evidence.
There is no doubt that the scene commander, the tactical commander, the negotiator, the ERU officers and other local gardaı´, armed and unarmed, at the scene
were taken entirely by surprise when John Carthy suddenly emerged from his house without any prior warning. The consequent confusion and the negligence of those in command led to the tragedy of his death which would not have happened if the Abbeylara road had been kept clear of vehicles and all personnel, which ought to have been the case. Everyone at the scene should have been safely under cover and not visible to the subject. The possibility that John Carthy might leave his house with his gun and walk towards Abbeylara was not realistically planned for and, it seems, was not adverted to at all in a meaningful way. Having the command vehicle on the road near Burke’s entrance and allowing local armed and unarmed uniformed gardaı´ to clutter the road in that area, whether required at the scene or not, amounted to a high degree of negligence. Detective Garda McCabe’s evidence has established that there would have been no justification for him (or any other armed officer, ERU or local) to shoot the subject if no one had been visible to the latter and in apparent danger of being shot by him as he walked towards the command vehicle. Superintendent Shelly was primarily responsible for allowing that situation to happen. He indeed was one of those caught unawares who had to run for cover at Burke’s gateway when Mr. Carthy emerged onto the road and walked in his direction.
The greatest Garda mistake at Abbeylara was not preparing for an uncontrolled exit by Mr. Carthy from his house as actually happened; in not keeping the road clear of vehicles and all personnel and in not ensuring that all officers at the scene remained safely concealed and under cover at all times. It is evident that the foregoing failures gave rise to the fatal shooting of Mr. Carthy by presenting him with apparent targets which should not have been there, i.e., allowing a situation to exist whereby exposed officers appeared to be in danger of being killed or injured by the subject, thus causing Garda McCabe to shoot him with fatal consequences in order to remove that risk. Superintendent Shelly and Superintendent Byrne as scene commanders had primary responsibility for the circumstances which lead to Mr. Carthy’s death. Their failure to appreciate the risks involved, not least to the subject himself, if officers are exposed to potential danger underlines the major flaw in the command structure at Abbeylara in having a difficult, dangerous situation commanded by officers with minimal training and no prior experience of what was required of them or of the potential difficulties involved. Unfortunately, they did not receive sufficient guidance in that crucial area from the ERU tactical leader, Sergeant Russell. As already pointed out, major difference in rank and perhaps attitudes may have been a contributory factor in that regard.
(d) Failure to provide a solicitor for John Carthy at the scene as requested by him
The request made by the subject, and repeated by him about which he was insistent, relates to the provision of a solicitor at the scene. There is no doubt that he was confused about the identity of the person he wanted. He referred to a man called ‘‘Mick Finucane’’ but did not provide an address or phone number for him. It ultimately transpired that Mr. Finucane was at that time an apprentice solicitor working in Dublin who had never met Mr. Carthy and did not know him. Whatever about identity, the evidence indicates (particularly the Kevin Ireland phone call) that
contacting a solicitor was in John Carthy’s mind in the context of ending the impasse. It seems to have been his primary purpose for phoning Mr. Ireland about noon on 20th April. If the scene commander had caused an inquiry to be made with the Law Society, it would have emerged immediately whether or not there was a solicitor called ‘‘Finucane’’ practising in this State at that time. If there was none, the next obvious step would have been to ascertain from Mrs. Carthy and/or her daughter, Marie, whether the subject had a local solicitor (which he had) or, if the latter could not be traced, the identity of the family solicitor. Mr. Carthy’s local attorney, or if necessary the family solicitor, should have been contacted urgently and brought to the scene for attempted negotiation with the subject, preferably by mobile phone, or, if not, by megaphone. Before contact, the solicitor should have been briefed by the scene commander, or the negotiator, on the matter of obtaining co-operation from the local authority for postponement of the demolition of the old family home, pending further discussions after Mr. Carthy had received proposed medical treatment as offered by Dr. Shanley at St. Patrick’s hospital. The solicitor should have been briefed also about anticipated co-operation from the DPP regarding postponing arrest pending the outcome of medical treatment and a subsequent report from Dr. Shanley, but subject to Mr. Carthy agreeing to leave his house unarmed and going forthwith to St. Patrick’s for in-patient treatment there as offered by his psychiatrist. The backing and encouragement of a solicitor he trusted for ending the stand-off on the foregoing basis, without the humiliation of arrest at the scene, may have provided a catalyst for achieving success. It is surprising that so little was done to respond to John Carthy’s apparently insistent request to provide him with a solicitor. It was patently negligent not to contact the subject’s own local attorney or, failing that, the family solicitor, as a matter of urgency and to secure the assistance of that person at the scene. It is evident that the scene commander, the negotiator and both senior officers all failed to recognise the importance of responding to Mr. Carthy’s efforts to obtain the benefit of a solicitor at the scene and none of them realised the potential for a breakthrough in ending the impasse which, appropriately orchestrated, that might have brought about. It is most unfortunate that none of those officers were made aware that Mr. Carthy had intimated to his friend, Kevin Ireland, that if he had the benefit of a solicitor at the scene he might end the impasse. Failure to have Mr. Ireland fully debriefed was a major mistake.
SECTION L: — The Performance of other Senior Officers
Superintendent Michael Byrne
This officer is superintendent for the area which includes Abbeylara and he is stationed in Granard. On 19th April, 2000 he was in Dublin at a meeting in Garda headquarters when Mrs. Rose Carthy phoned Granard station and informed Garda Gorman about her son’s dangerous behaviour with a gun in his home at that time which was late afternoon. Soon afterwards, Superintendent Shelly, area superintendent in Mullingar, took over the situation as scene commander in Superintendent Byrne’s absence. The latter attended at the scene in late evening and he succeeded his colleague as scene commander at midnight and remained on duty
in that capacity until relieved by Superintendent Shelly on the following morning. In short, they shared the function of scene commander, but the burden of that task as it transpired fell on Superintendent Shelly’s shoulders. As previously stated, he was responsible for the siting of the command post in a garda jeep on the road between the Burke and Carthy entrances. Superintendent Byrne did not advert to any potential danger in the siting of the command vehicle, or having the negotiation point at the Carthy boundary wall and both continued in use during his period as scene commander. He ought to have realised each was inappropriate and potentially dangerous.
It is proper to observe that having, in effect, inherited a command structure at Abbeylara which had been established before his arrival at the scene, Superintendent Byrne was less culpable than his colleague for aspects of it which were mistaken. Furthermore, he too had no prior experience of an armed siege situation and had minimal training in that regard. He also had no experience of violent conduct by a person motivated by mental illness. Nonetheless, as joint scene commander he had responsibility for how command was exercised and for the structures which were in place at the scene, including the need for a planned response to the situation (recorded in writing) which would arise if John Carthy made an uncontrolled armed exit from his house and headed towards Abbeylara, as ultimately happened. No such response was planned in any real sense by either scene commander or by any other officer. There is no evidence that Superintendent Byrne considered that possibility or how it should be dealt with if it arose during his watch. He did not advert to the need for keeping the Abbeylara road free of vehicles and all personnel or the importance of instructing all officers at the scene to remain out of sight and in safe cover to avoid creating a possible crisis for Mr. Carthy in such circumstances. On the contrary, Superintendent Byrne expressed approval of uniformed unarmed officers being in the vicinity of the command vehicle on the basis that they would be a comfort to Mr. Carthy in contrast to the presence of armed, plain-clothes police. That reasoning indicates that he did not realise the potential danger of gardaı´, whether armed or uniformed, confronting the subject and perhaps stimulating him into a violent reaction with his gun. It is evident that, like his colleague and other senior officers, he failed to appreciate that there ought not to have been any potential garda or civilian target visible to Mr. Carthy as he proceeded towards Abbeylara with his gun if he decided to take that course. Like the other senior officers, Superintendent Byrne appears to have given no thought to the implications of moving containment and of the event which happened.
In addition to the foregoing criticisms, Superintendent Byrne’s conduct as scene commander was also at fault in the following respects:
i. Failure to have Dr. Cullen interviewed in depth personally or by a competent, experienced officer. As area commander stationed at Granard (though I appreciate not at the time of the goat mascot episode or when Mr. Carthy’s gun was obtained from him and retained by subterfuge), it seems likely that he would have learned on 1 9th April, if not earlier, from some officers stationed there what had happened on those occasions. Even if he was not so advised, he would have learned at the scene that
Garda Gibbons had patently failed to interrogate Dr. Cullen realistically and that a competent officer should have been detailed to do so as a matter of urgency. Was his failure in that regard evidence of negligence or did it indicate a reluctance on his part to have Dr. Cullen’s warning of the subject’s antagonism towards the police investigated?
ii. Failure to examine Mr. Carthy’s gun licence file and thus learn about Dr. Shanley’s involvement and, in aid of the negotiator, to have him brought to the scene immediately.
iii. Failure to appreciate the importance of calming Mr. Carthy by complying with reasonable requests made by him — such as the provision of cigarettes. In that regard, failure to instruct Detective Sergeant Russell to deliver a supply of them at the house when he went there to cut the TV cable during the night while Mr. Carthy was resting.
iv. Failure to consult with Detective Sergeant Russell and have recorded in writing details of a moving containment strategy to be adopted by the ERU and others as preparation for the possibility that Mr. Carthy while armed might make an uncontrolled exit from his house and head towards Abbeylara.
v. In preparation for the latter possibility, failure to have all vehicles, including the command jeep, removed from the Abbeylara road; to keep the road clear of vehicles and personnel and to have all officers at the scene specifically instructed to remain concealed from the road and in safe cover at all times.
vi. Superintendent Byrne’s attitude towards Ms Carthy, the subject’s sister, while at the scene in the early hours of 20th April is the subject of comment elsewhere in this report. Failure to arrange for her to be interviewed in depth by a competent, experienced officer early on 20th April for the purpose of ascertaining her assessment of her brother’s conduct, including what reasons he might have had for defending the old home; what ideas she might have on how the impasse could be resolved, and also her preparation by the gardaı´ for contact with her brother as part of the negotiation process, should have been put in hand.
vii. Failure to appoint a competent, experienced officer with knowledge of what was happening at the scene as liaison officer with the Carthy family and for the purpose of interviewing each person separately to ascertain all relevant background information, including details about any negotiations with the local authority regarding the future of the old home which was being replaced.
viii. Failure to take any action in response to Mr. Carthy’s request to provide him with a solicitor at the scene; including ascertaining from the immediate family whether he had a local solicitor or, if not, the identity of the family solicitor.
Chief Superintendent Patrick Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Tony Hickey
The scene commanders were answerable to Messrs. Tansey and Hickey who between them had overall garda command of a large area which included Granard and Abbeylara. They both took an active interest in what was happening there, including spending significant time at the scene, but they did not make command decisions though entitled to participate in that regard if they considered that they should do so.
Chief Superintendent Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Hickey learned about the crisis at Abbeylara soon after the gardaı´ were notified about it. They ascertained that Mr. Carthy was dangerous and appeared to be motivated by mental illness. Without consultation with Superintendent Shelly or Superintendent Byrne they decided that it was an appropriate case to arrange for the ERU to provide a tactical unit and also a negotiator at the scene. That decision appears to have been well founded. As already stated, the ERU is a specialist unit having specific training and experience in siege situations, whereas the local armed gardaı´ had no such experience or training. However, it seems to me that three factors should have been taken into account by Messrs. Tansey and Hickey. First, the desirability of consulting the scene commanders and giving them an opportunity to explain to the local officers why they were being replaced as the inner cordon. Secondly, to arrange that the proposed ERU tactical commander should be of commissioned rank. It is difficult for a sergeant to find himself having to argue with an inexperienced scene commander of superintendent rank about decisions already made by the latter before arrival of the ERU which the tactical sergeant may consider to be unwise, e.g., the siting of the command vehicle; failure to reallocate local armed officers and the proliferation of armed and uniformed men on the road near the Carthy property in the vicinity of the command vehicle. Thirdly, they ought to have ascertained that Detective Sergeant Jackson had no prior experience as a negotiator in a siege situation and they should have realised that the event might continue for many hours or perhaps days. For those reasons it should have been apparent from the beginning that at least one experienced negotiator should have been provided to work with Sergeant Jackson.
In my opinion the senior officers ought to have adverted also to the following problems, though primarily the responsibility of the scene commanders:
(a) The absence of a detailed plan recorded in writing to meet the possibility that Mr. Carthy might make an uncontrolled armed exit from his house.
(b) Failure to appreciate the potentially dangerous positioning of the command vehicle.
(c) Failure to appreciate the dangerous and unsuitable siting of the negotiation point at the Carthy boundary wall.
(d) Failure to advert to the fact that the road in the vicinity of the command vehicle was frequently cluttered by armed and uniformed officers, including bystanders who had no business being there.
(e) Failure to advise removal by the scene commanders of all or most of the original inner cordon of local armed gardaı´.
(f) Failure to advise that the Abbeylara road should be kept clear of vehicles and personnel up to the roadblock near the Church.
(g) Failure to advise the scene commanders to ensure that all officers at the scene had good reason for being there and that they remained under safe cover and out of sight from the road and the Carthy property at all times.
(h) Failure to appreciate the importance of avoiding the potential risk of a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation between local armed gardaı´ and ERU officers in the vicinity of the Carthy property, and failure to realise (as Mr. Burdis stated in evidence) that both groups were far too close to each other in the event of a crisis situation such as that which occurred.
(i) Failure to ascertain that no viable negotiating strategy had been devised and implemented.
(j) Failure to advise the scene commander to have Dr. Cullen interviewed by a competent, experienced, fully briefed officer as a matter of urgent priority.
(k) Failure to ascertain on the morning of 20th April or earlier whether appropriate steps had been taken to interview Mrs. Rose Carthy and Ms Marie Carthy to ascertain further information they might be able to supply for the benefit of the negotiator, and to prepare Ms Carthy for participation in negotiation with her brother.
(l) Failure to ascertain that the garda officer provided for liaison with the Carthy family was a newly qualified recruit with no experience and who was given no instruction on what her function was in that regard.
(m) Failure to advise the urgent debriefing of Mr. Kevin Ireland by a competent senior officer, who was familiar with events at Abbeylara, about Mr. Ireland’s phone conversation with the subject.
(n) Failure to advise the scene commanders of the urgency of providing a solicitor for John Carthy at the scene in response to his repeated requests in that regard.
Assuming that the senior officers were told that John Carthy had expressed fear to Sergeant Jackson about receiving a long prison sentence for his dangerous conduct at the scene, either or both of them ought to have adverted to the possibility of using the subject’s fear of imprisonment to advantage by inviting the Director of Public Prosecutions to agree to postpone arrest of Mr. Carthy until conclusion of his hospital treatment under Dr. Shanley and receipt of a report from him on the outcome, provided that the subject vacated his house without his gun and agreed to travel immediately to hospital with Dr. Shanley for the proposed treatment. As Mr. Carthy’s conduct was not criminal in any real sense but was motivated by severe mental illness, there would have been nothing to be lost in taking that course. Without his gun, Mr. Carthy appears to have presented no risk. If that had happened it might have ended the impasse and, for the subject, it would avoid the humility of surrendering to the police. In fact, the only evidence about plans for the arrest of the subject relates
to a discussion between senior officers as to whether arrest should be made for a firearms offence or under the Mental Health acts. The idea of postponing arrest on the foregoing terms was not adverted to by anyone.
SECTION M: — The Negotiator
Soon after the police involvement in John Carthy’s armed stand-off at his home, it was established that his violent conduct was probably the product of a severe manifestation of mental illness. Should Detective Sergeant Jackson have realised that his first priority as a novice negotiator with little knowledge of psychiatric disturbance was to be fully briefed by the subject’s general medical practioner and by a specialist psychiatrist if one had been involved? I am satisfied that the negotiator’s first priority should have been to meet and have a detailed consultation with Dr. Cullen. Apart from providing valuable information on the nature and history of John Carthy’s mental illness and an explanation for the doctor’s warning about the deceased’s antagonism towards the police, it would have led to the early discovery of Dr. Shanley’s involvement. In that event Sergeant Jackson should have immediately contacted the latter and informed him of the gravity of the situation and the risk to life, including his own, which John Carthy presented. Arrangements should have been made to transport the doctor immediately to Abbeylara by police car. At the scene, Dr. Shanley, having consulted Dr. Cullen and interviewed members of the family, in particular Ms Marie Carthy (who would have been in a position to advise him about recent major difficulties which had occurred in Galway, including the ending of the relationship with Ms X), is likely to have derived some insight into his patient’s motivation for violently defending the old home against all comers. The greatest advantage from Dr. Shanley’s presence would have been that as a specialist in mental illness, with particular knowledge of John Carthy, he would have a far greater insight than a lay negotiator could have into the mind of his patient; in particular in discerning the likely motivation for his conduct and in deciding how that information might best be utilised to devise a scheme for resolving the impasse. I apprehend that Dr. Shanley would have advised the negotiator about the importance of creating a calming situation to defuse the subject’s mania (advice which other medical experts have also confirmed in evidence). To that end he is likely to have proposed that the request for cigarettes should be complied with promptly and with no strings attached. It was patently counter-productive to allow the subject’s severe mental state to be aggravated by nicotine withdrawal. (The subject was a heavy smoker and it is probable that he had run out of cigarettes.) As John Carthy’s request for a solicitor was reasonable and was one to which he attached major importance as he had explained to his friend, Kevin Ireland, Dr. Shanley might have advised also that it would be potentially helpful to arrange for the presence at the scene of the subject’s own solicitor (if his identity could be ascertained) or, alternatively, the family’s solicitor — again as a gesture of cooperation and good will. Bearing in mind that several civilians were brought to the negotiation point to speak to John Carthy, there is no reason why a solicitor should not have been brought there also. One possible explanation for failure to respond to Mr. Carthy’s request for a solicitor is that such a person, unlike the other civilians, could not be orchestrated by the police regarding
the line he should take with the subject and there was some risk that his participation could be discomforting for the gardaı´. The dilatory response of the police to the repeated request by the subject is surprising.
Dr. Shanley, if his services had been availed of promptly, is likely to have learned about the significance for John Carthy of Holy Thursday and the tenth anniversary of his father’s death, a person who had been intimately associated with the old home which was soon to be demolished.
Was there any possibility of creating a ‘‘victory’’ for the subject which might encourage him to end his stand-off? There is abundant evidence that he was an intelligent man and, notwithstanding the major exacerbation of his mental illness at the time, his capacity for reasoning does not appear to have been seriously impaired. His telephone conversation with Kevin Ireland supports that assessment. It seems likely he appreciated that he could not maintain his armed defence of the old home indefinitely. It is probable that there would have been strongly in his mind a conviction that he would not surrender to the police, but he had also expressed a fear of long-term imprisonment for what he had done. Bearing all of these factors in mind was there any possibility of orchestrating an apparent ‘‘success’’ which he would accept as a justification for bringing the siege to an end without personal humiliation? Such a possibility does not seem to have been addressed by the negotiator or the scene commanders or their superiors. It is probable that early collaboration between the negotiator, Dr. Shanley and Dr. Cullen would have been advantageous in devising a viable negotiating strategy.
Although he was involved in attempted negotiation with John Carthy for about sixteen hours, Sergeant Jackson failed to make any significant progress in that regard. He made very real efforts to achieve a resolution of the impasse, but lack of resources and experience militated against his prospect of success. Lack of background information which ought to have been available to him (notably the subject’s vehement antagonism towards the police and his assurance to Kevin Ireland that he had no intention of shooting himself or anyone else) was also a crucial disadvantage. An assessment of the negotiator’s performance indicates the following mistakes on his part:
1. Failure to ascertain and to understand the effects on John Carthy of his mental illness.
2. Failure to realise the importance of defusing the situation and calming the subject’s mental state. In particular, not realising that reasonable requests made by him should be responded to positively, without delay and with no strings attached — notably the supply of cigarettes and the provision of a solicitor at the scene.
3. Failure to obtain expert medical advice from Dr. Cullen and Dr. Shanley as soon as possible on the foregoing matters and other points to which I have previously referred. He had no direct contact with either doctor, or any other medical person, and, apart from receiving documentation from Dr. Cullen at about 4:00 a.m. on 20th April per Detective Garda Campbell, he
had no medical assistance in dealing with John Carthy’s major mental illness manifested by potentially lethal behaviour at the scene.
4. Dr. Shanley should have been brought to Abbeylara as soon as his identity became known which ought to have been before midnight on the first day.
5. Failure to take any part in arranging for Kevin Ireland to be fully debriefed about his telephone conversation with John Carthy which was the only known meaningful communication between the subject and any other person during the stand-off. It is proper to add that the fault in that regard primarily lies with the scene commander.
6. Persisting in the use of the external negotiating point at the Carthy boundary wall even though little or nothing of value was achieved there and one-way communication by megaphone was patently unsatisfactory. In so doing, a dangerous opportunity was given to John Carthy to amuse himself by causing Mr. Jackson and others to duck up and down at the wall over a period of many hours. That situation would have militated still further against the possibility of establishing a meaningful rapport with the subject.
7. Failure to devise and put into effect any meaningful strategy and plan to end the impasse successfully.
8. He placed an over-reliance on the rule of thumb that ‘‘no concession is made without getting something in return’’. That concept is inappropriate when dealing with a subject who is demonstrably affected by serious mental trauma — particularly failure to comply with a reasonable request from a heavy smoker to supply cigarettes. As already stated, it ought to have been readily appreciated that the subject’s mental distress would be further aggravated by the deprivation of nicotine. Superintendent Byrne confirmed in evidence that Sergeant Jackson hoped to use the provision of cigarettes ‘‘in a positive manner later on’’. Assistant Commissioner Hickey informed the Tribunal in evidence that Sergeant Jackson in his report to the Culligan Inquiry had expressed an opinion that ‘‘the giving of cigarettes may also entice him into giving something in return; maybe to throw out some ammunition or maybe even the gun . . . .’’. The negotiator ought also to have realised the futility of alleging to John Carthy, that in the interest of the safety of gardaı´ delivering cigarettes to the house, it would be necessary for the subject to put his gun down on the floor and display his hands at the kitchen window. He (Jackson) knew or ought to have realised at that stage that Mr. Carthy was greatly antagonistic towards and distrustful of the police. His conduct during the siege made that abundantly clear. Accordingly, that particular ploy was bound to fail. The strong probability is that the subject would be fearful that the true objective of that strategy may have been to create a situation which would enable a garda to jump through the kitchen window, or, having gained entry to the house unknown to Mr. Carthy, an attacker might burst into the kitchen while the gun was on the floor and in either event the subject would be overpowered before being able to retrieve his weapon. The explanation
given in evidence that in the interest of police safety it was in fact necessary to prevail on Mr. Carthy to put his gun down on the floor is, quiet frankly, absurd. I have no doubt that cigarettes could have been delivered by leaving them at the hall door at any stage during the siege while John Carthy was under observation in the kitchen where in fact he spent nearly all of his time. Furthermore, Detective Sergeant Russell could have placed the cigarettes on the windowsill while he was at the house during the first night for the purpose of disconnecting the television cable. He stated in evidence that he looked into the room and saw the subject resting on a couch. He expressed no difficulty about responding to Mr. Carthy’s request by leaving cigarettes on the kitchen windowsill at that time.
An opinion has been expressed in evidence by Dr. Ian McKenzie, forensic psychologist, that a difficulty in connection with the delivery of cigarettes to the house (excluding any risk for the deliverer) was that it might be regarded by the subject as an unjustified invasion of his personal space and privacy. Dr. John Sheehan, consultant psychiatrist, who has advised the Tribunal on John Carthy’s behaviour and mental illness, stated in evidence that he recognised the importance which the subject probably attached to his privacy and personal space during the stand-off, but he drew a distinction between an invasion of space by the police to achieve an advantage for them over the subject and an invasion of space consequent upon a response to a reasonable request made to them by the subject in his own interest. The essence of the distinction is that in the latter case, unlike the former, the benefiting party is the subject whose space is invaded. Dr. Sheehan indicated that the request by John Carthy for delivery of cigarettes at his house necessarily entailed, as he would appreciate, some invasion of his space. In his opinion that would have been acceptable to the subject as being appropriate in order to meet his request. The logic of Dr. Sheehan’s opinion on this topic is very clear. I am satisfied that John Carthy would not have regarded delivery of cigarettes (probably urgently required) to his house in response to his request to the gardaı´ as being an unjustified invasion of his space. None of the other experts have advised otherwise.
9. Having been unable to make meaningful communication with the subject by house telephone or mobile phone, failure to advert to the possibility that written communication, if carefully constructed and orchestrated, might be the most effective way of laying the ground-work for a peaceful resolution of the impasse — one which had a much greater prospect of success than reliance on loud, one-way communication by megaphone.
10. Failure to appreciate that, having regard to the depth of John Carthy’s antagonism towards the police and the negotiator’s failure to achieve meaningful rapport with him, there was a strong probability he would never surrender to the gardaı´. In these circumstances it was imperative to utilise Dr. Shanley and Ms Marie Carthy to the best advantage in negotiations with the subject bearing in mind that he had great respect for and trust in both, and in the case of his sister was particularly close to her
as subsequently emerged in his letter to Ms X of 26th February, 2000 (referred to earlier in this chapter). There is also a reference in the Culligan Report confirmed by phone records that he endeavoured to contact his sister by mobile phone on the afternoon of his death, after his call to Kevin Ireland, but was unable to do so because he had used an incorrect number which had been changed shortly before then.
11. On the morning of 20th April, or at any time, failure to have appropriate steps taken to prepare Ms Carthy for participation in the negotiation; to ascertain her assessment of her brother’s conduct and whether she had any helpful advice to offer the negotiator. It would have been obviously useful to have her personally interviewed by an experienced policewoman who herself had been properly instructed on the facts. This was primarily a matter for the scene commander, but its importance is such that one would expect the negotiator to prompt his inexperienced superior if necessary. In fact there is no evidence that anything was done to derive benefit from the presence of Ms Carthy — particularly during the morning or afternoon of the second day.
12. Failure to respond to John Carthy’s expressed fear of a long prison sentence by arranging with his (Jackson’s) superiors to obtain a written assurance from the Director of Public Prosecutions that if the subject were to relinquish his gun it would not be necessary to arrest him, and that that course of action, if subsequently taken, could be postponed until after he had had immediate in-patient treatment at St. Patrick’s hospital under Dr. Shanley (as offered by him) and a report had been received by the DPP from the latter regarding the outcome of treatment and the psychiatric assessment of the cause of the deceased’s behaviour at Abbeylara, and whether, if his gun licence was withdrawn and he disposed of his weapon, he would cease to be a danger to anyone.
13. A crucial matter which John Carthy had on his mind during the siege as indicated to his mother, and which appears to have been the primary motivating factor that precipitated his violent conduct in apparent defence of the old family home, was his fear that it was about to be demolished by the local authority as the new dwelling provided by it had been completed — a fear accentuated by his association of the old home with his grandfather and father, the tenth anniversary of whose death on Holy Thursday, 1990 was at hand. It would have been potentially helpful to obtain as a matter of immediate urgency a letter from the county manager addressed to John Carthy confirming that the local authority was willing to postpone its decision about demolition of the old house until after his hospital treatment and he was in a position to consult his solicitor and to take up the matter again with the county manager. Such a postponement would not inhibit the local authority in its ultimate decision, but it would lay the groundwork for an apparent ‘‘victory’’ by John Carthy which, in conjunction with postponement of arrest might encourage him to accept it as such and end his stand-off.
14. Failure to appreciate that John Carthy’s insistence on having the benefit of a solicitor at the scene might be turned to advantage by providing the subject’s local solicitor, or if not traceable, the family solicitor, having first briefed him/her about possible postponement of the demolition of the old house by the local authority to allow further discussion after hospital treatment; also the question of a decision by the DPP to postpone Mr. Carthy’s arrest if he agreed to leave the house without his gun and proceed immediately to hospital with Dr. Shanley for treatment and thus avoid humiliation of the subject. (This point is amplified elsewhere in this chapter).
The negotiator does not appear to have tried to look into the mind of the subject and to attempt to assess his possible motivation. Mr. Carthy’s insistence on production of a solicitor at the scene appears to indicate that he was contemplating ultimate surrender and required advice and participation in the negotiation of terms. Such thoughts are reflected in the Kevin Ireland phone conversation six hours before the subject’s death
when he told his friend that ‘‘he would give himself in if he got a solicitor’’.
He was described by Mr. Ireland as being ‘‘calm’’ and he appears to have been lucid at that time. It is most unfortunate that a major opportunity was not ascertained and pursued.
Having recited what I find to be the downside of Sergeant Jackson’s performance as negotiator at Abbeylara, it is important to emphasise that anyone assessing his performance should also take into account the major difficulties in which he was working which are as follows:
(a) He had no prior experience as a siege negotiator.
(b) There were twenty-seven other experienced police negotiators in service in this jurisdiction at that time. One of them should have been provided to collaborate with Sergeant Jackson. Apart from the benefit of expert help and advice, this would have enabled both to have reasonable rest periods in succession and to carry out part of their work from an adjacent house, i.e., Farrell’s or Burke’s or the Carthy new house. With the benefit of some rest and an occasional modicum of creature comfort, both negotiators would have had also some reasonable opportunity to communicate with each other; to think and to plan meaningful strategy. In fact Sergeant Jackson was obliged to work on duty in the open for a total of about 20 hours from the evening of 1 9th April up to the time John Carthy was fatally shot at 6:00 p.m. on the following day. During that period he had two hours sleep and another two hours off duty having been on duty from 7:00 a.m. on the first day i.e., a total of 30 hours excluding rest periods. It is unfair and unreasonable to expect optimum performance in a unique situation from an inexperienced negotiator in those circumstances. This should have been apparent to the scene commanders, and to Chief Superintendent Tansey and Assistant Commissioner Hickey. From the beginning they should have provided a second trained negotiator to work
with him. If the need for such assistance was adverted to by any of the senior officers as ought to have been the case, there may have been some reluctance to introduce an experienced negotiator who was not a member of the ERU — a self-contained elite unit which may have regarded itself as being capable of resolving the situation without help from elsewhere. The ERU involvement in this case was high profile with the media. Failure to appreciate the obvious need for having an experienced negotiator to work with Sergeant Jackson is surprising.
(c) Through serious failures in intelligence gathering by the scene commanders, Sergeant Jackson was not informed about John Carthy’s allegation of garda assault while under interrogation after wrongful arrest in connection with the destruction of the goat mascot, or that his gun had been taken from him by the police through subterfuge without any corroborative evidence to sustain nebulous hearsay allegations made against the subject which he denied. The failure of Superintendent Shelly to have an in-depth consultation with Dr. Cullen soon after commencement of the siege led to the fact that Dr. Shanley’s involvement was not known until circa 4:00 a.m. on 20th April. The psychiatrist’s involvement would not have been discovered until many hours later but for Sergeant Jackson’s initiative in having the doctor seen by Garda Campbell in the early hours of 20th April when he was asked for medical records in his possession. These included a report from Dr. Shanley.
(d) As already pointed out, another serious failure in intelligence gathering was not having Kevin Ireland properly debriefed in detail about his telephone call with the subject at noon on 20th April. That call is the only evidence of what was in John Carthy’s mind during the siege about use of his gun and his requirement for a solicitor. He made clear to his friend that he had no intention of shooting himself or anyone else and that his purpose in shooting at the police was to keep the ERU at bay.
Sergeant Jackson also would have learned from the Kevin Ireland phone call that John Carthy’s purpose in phoning his friend was to obtain the benefit of a solicitor at the scene apparently in the context of negotiating possible surrender. If fully briefed in the matter, it is likely that the negotiator would have realised that providing a solicitor could have been of great importance in achieving success.
As already stated in the Introductory Chapter, the evidence has established that Sergeant (now Superintendent) Jackson preformed his duties to the best of his ability at Abbeylara. He demonstrated a high degree of dedication, humanity and a real effort to resolve the impasse created by John Carthy, who was a sick man. I note in particular that when the deceased emerged onto the road from his house; removed one cartridge from his gun and then commenced walking towards Abbeylara with his weapon apparently at the ready, Sergeant Jackson observed that the deceased had not threatened any of the nearby ERU officers and he (Jackson), who was first to fire, elected to shoot at John Carthy’s legs and he was struck twice in that area. Unfortunately, both bullets passed through soft tissue. If a bone had been struck it is
probable that the subject would have fallen immediately thus removing any need for further shots. I commend Sergeant Jackson for his course of action in contending with the final difficult situation presented by John Carthy. I have no doubt that throughout the event he did his best.
SECTION N: — The Shooting of John Carthy by Detective Garda (now Sergeant) Aidan McCabe
Detective Garda McCabe was one of three ERU officers who arrived at the Abbeylara scene circa 1:00 p.m. on 20th April to reinforce the tactical detachment of four officers under Detective Sergeant Russell. His knowledge of John Carthy probably would have been limited.
When the subject made his sudden, unexpected exit from the house armed with his shotgun, Garda McCabe was on duty with Detective Sergeant Jackson and Detective Garda Sisk on the road in the vicinity of the negotiation point at the Carthy boundary wall. He was armed with an Uzi sub-machine gun. He saw John Carthy walk from his house with his gun broken open. He called on him to put the gun down. Other
ERU officers in the vicinity shouted ‘‘armed gardaı´, put your gun down’’ and this was
repeated by the officers, including Garda McCabe, but there was no response from the subject. The witness also indicated in evidence that John Carthy was aware of the presence of ERU officers on the road in the vicinity of his gateway and elsewhere, but he did not threaten any of them. The evidence has established that he passed within a few feet of four or five officers before turning to proceed in the Abbeylara direction. It is likely that Mr. Carthy also would have seen Sergeant Russell standing on the boundary wall, near where the subject was when fatally shot. Sergeant Russell presented a spectacular target but was also ignored by Mr. Carthy.
Garda McCabe did not see the subject close his gun, but observed that he had done so before entering the roadway. He also stated in evidence that he saw Mr. Carthy stop on the road near his entrance; open the gun; remove one cartridge; throw it away and close the gun again. When the subject proceeded in the Abbeylara direction Garda McCabe saw local officers running in different directions and scattering on the road ahead in the vicinity of the command vehicle near Burke’s gate. He stated that he feared for their lives as John Carthy approached them with his gun held in what he perceived to be a threatening way. The subject did not raise the gun to his shoulder or point it at any particular officer. Nonetheless, in the opinion of Garda McCabe, Mr. Carthy constituted an immediate lethal threat to those gardaı´ as he was in a position to fire the gun instantly and was so close to the local men that it would not have been necessary to raise the gun to his shoulder to take aim at any particular target. Garda McCabe believed that the subject was about to pull the trigger and possibly kill or injure officers in proximity to the command vehicle. He decided that all other means of stopping John Carthy had been exhausted and that in the interest of saving the lives of local officers in the immediate area, he should prepare to discharge his own weapon at the subject. He was about to do so when Sergeant Jackson fired his first shot which Garda McCabe observed struck the
subject’s upper leg. It did not seem to disable him. He took one or two further paces forward and was then shot in the same leg again by Sergeant Jackson — though on that occasion the witness did not know whether or not the bullet had struck its target. According to Garda McCabe it also seemed to have no effect on Mr. Carthy who took another one or two paces forward. (As already stated, it emerged subsequently at post-mortem that both the Jackson bullets had caused soft tissue injury only in the upper leg.) At that point Garda McCabe decided that his duty was to fire at John Carthy in accordance with the instructions and training he had received as an ERU officer which included a direction that, where possible, the target should be the central body mass or torso of the subject. The first Uzi bullet fired by Garda McCabe struck John Carthy’s lower back. The witness stated that it also did not seem to have an effect on him and he was not sure whether the bullet had hit the target. For that reason he then fired a second shot which struck the subject at a higher point in the back. This caused him to collapse on the road mortally wounded and he died almost immediately afterwards.
The Tribunal heard an amount of expert medical testimony from Professor Phillips, neurosurgeon, and Professors Harbison and Milroy, pathologists (see section D in Chapter 5) on John Carthy’s body position at the time when the fatal shot was discharged and the probable effect of the other three bullets which had struck him. The experts were in broad agreement that when considering John Carthy’s response to the shots an important factor was the effect of his highly charged mental state at the time. It is likely that he would not react as a normal person would to the injuries inflicted on him and to the grievous pain which would have been caused by the third bullet in particular. The opinion was expressed that his mental state may have caused his responses to have been significantly delayed. In the light of that evidence it follows that Garda McCabe’s description of the effect on John Carthy of the first three shots is credible and I accept the veracity of his testimony in that regard.
The crucial issue is whether in all the circumstances Garda McCabe was lawfully justified in firing two shots into John Carthy’s back, the probable consequence of which would be the death of the subject as actually happened. The law provides that a garda officer may shoot an armed subject only as a last resort to save the life or bodily integrity of some person or persons who are in immediate danger of grievous attack by the subject and are liable to be killed or seriously injured by him. Garda McCabe stated in evidence that he shot the deceased because he believed that the latter was about to shoot and possibly kill or injure some of the local officers who were on the road in the vicinity of the command vehicle as the subject, carrying his gun in what was perceived to be a threatening attitude, walked towards them. He believed that all other means of stopping John Carthy had been exhausted and that he had an immediate duty to protect the local officers from death or personal injury. (There is no doubt that there were at least five local armed detectives and also unarmed uniformed officers on or about the road in the general vicinity of the command vehicle near Burke’s entrance as John Carthy walked towards them carrying his gun in what was perceived to be a threatening way. They were vulnerable to being shot by the subject if he decided on that course of action).
When Sergeant Jackson shot Mr. Carthy twice in the leg and failed to stop his progress forward, Garda McCabe then decided that he had no alternative but to shoot the subject in the back in accordance with his ERU training. He would have known that such shots, if they struck the intended target, were likely to have fatal consequences for Mr. Carthy.
There are two exceptional factors for consideration in reviewing whether Garda McCabe was justified in firing potentially fatal shots at the subject. First, the fact, known to the witness, that Mr. Carthy did not threaten any of the armed ERU officers (including McCabe himself) who he had encountered at close quarters after leaving his house. If his intention was to shoot a police officer the rhetorical question is posed why did he not shoot one of several armed ERU men who were in his vicinity initially and at close quarters? Having ignored them, why would he shoot a local officer as he walked towards Abbeylara in their direction? Was it not reasonable to take into account that he may have regarded possession of his shotgun armed with one cartridge as being essential for protecting himself from being overpowered by the police and that it was not his intention to use it, at least without provocation. Most unfortunately, Garda McCabe, like all the other officers at the scene, was not aware that a few hours earlier Mr. Carthy had informed his friend, Kevin Ireland, in a phone call that he did not intend to shoot anyone. That information, allied to Mr. Carthy’s conduct in not threatening any of the ERU officers he encountered after he left the house, might well have caused Garda McCabe to reconsider whether the subject did in fact constitute a real threat to the life or safety of anyone. If Mr. Ireland had been properly de-briefed by an experienced intelligence gatherer the foregoing information would have been available to all concerned, including the local armed officers at the scene. In all the circumstances it may have coloured their response to Mr. Carthy and their assessment of the actual threat he posed to others as he walked towards Abbeylara.
The second factor which was known to Garda McCabe was that his superior, Sergeant Jackson, the ERU negotiator, was first to fire at the subject and had elected not to aim at his torso but to shoot him in the leg. In doing so he had thereby indicated that he did not regard it as necessary to kill Mr. Carthy but simply to disable him. In the circumstances should the witness have consulted his superior, who was close to him at the time, before deciding to fire potentially fatal shots into John Carthy’s back?
There is also another factor which requires consideration. Was Garda McCabe fearful that he and his ERU colleagues who were on the road near John Carthy were at risk of becoming victims of an imminent ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation caused by local armed officers on the road ahead of them in the vicinity of the command vehicle who were likely to shoot at the subject. Sergeant Foley has stated in evidence, and I accept, that he had aimed his gun and was within an instant of shooting at John Carthy when Sergeant Jackson opened fire on the subject. Protecting himself and others from the possible consequences of a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation would not, per se, have been a sufficient ground for fatally shooting Mr. Carthy. There is no doubt that if the road from the Carthy to the Walsh properties and beyond had been kept clear of vehicles
and all personnel there would not have been a potential ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation as all vehicles and personnel would have been cleared from the road before Mr. Carthy emerged from his house and there would have been no possible garda target for him in the vicinity of the command vehicle or further along the road towards Abbeylara.
In reviewing the culpability of Garda McCabe and the legality of what he did in fatally shooting John Carthy, one must decide the issue on the basis of the nature of the crisis situation which the witness was obliged to contend with and his state of knowledge at that time. Although Mr. Carthy had not threatened any of the ERU officers he had encountered after leaving his house, objectively he constituted a potential real threat to local police on the road in the vicinity of the command vehicle which was close by. The training which gardaı´ receive is that it is a matter for the individual armed officer to decide in each case whether the subject constitutes an immediate threat to the lives of others. Garda McCabe was not aware of what Mr. Carthy had said to his friend, Kevin Ireland, a few hours before he vacated the house that he had no intention of killing anyone. Sergeant Jackson’s shots had not stalled the subject. The risk he presented had then become acute and immediate. In those circumstances it was not unreasonable for Garda McCabe to decide that his duty was to shoot Mr. Carthy. The witness denied that he had been motivated by possible personal risk from a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation. Bearing in mind that there is no evidence that a shot had been fired at the scene by any local officer at that time and also the apparent urgency and gravity of the situation which the witness felt obliged to resolve, he may not have been aware of, or actuated by, personal risk from a ‘‘blue on blue’’ situation. In all the circumstances it is proper to conclude that there was insufficient evidence which might establish that Garda McCabe, on the basis of the information available to him and the circumstances he had to contend with, acted unlawfully in shooting John Carthy. I am satisfied that responsibility for his death rests primarily with the scene commanders and to a lesser extent with the ERU tactical commander for reasons stated elsewhere in this chapter.
SECTION O: — A Summary of Command Failures at Abbeylara
Failures by the scene commanders and others which contributed to the disaster at Abbeylara are briefly summarised as follows:
(a) Failure to have Dr. Cullen interviewed in depth by a competent, experienced, fully briefed officer as a matter of urgency early in the first evening of the siege.
(b) Failure to ascertain promptly the involvement of Dr. Shanley, Mr. Carthy’s
psychiatrist, and to have him brought to the scene as a matter of urgency
to advise the negotiator and scene commanders, i.e., circa midnight on
19th/20th April or earlier.
(c) Failure to have Mrs. Rose Carthy, Ms Marie Carthy and other friends and close family of the subject interviewed individually as a matter of urgency by competent experienced officers, who were themselves properly briefed on the known facts, for the purpose of ascertaining information about the
health, family background and history of Mr. Carthy and to ascertain why he told his mother that he intended to defend the old home against all-comers, which appears to have been his primary motivation for doing what he did. It was also important to ascertain whether there had been any negotiations with the county manager about the old house.
(d) Failure to have the Longford county manager interviewed about the intended demolition of the old house and about any negotiations there may have been with the Carthy family regarding retention of it, and also to negotiate postponement of demolition pending further discussion with Mr. Carthy and his solicitor after hospital treatment.
(e) In response to the subject’s fear (expressed to Detective Sergeant Jackson) that his violent conduct would result in a prison sentence of ten years, failure to arrange with Assistant Commissioner Hickey to request the Director of Public Prosecutions to agree to postponement of the arrest of the subject pending completion of the in-patient psychiatric treatment offered by Dr. Shanley at St. Patrick’s hospital and a report on its outcome, provided that Mr. Carthy vacated his house without his gun and was brought to hospital by the doctor forthwith. (It is noted that an ambulance was available at Granard.)
Failure to have Mr. Kevin Ireland promptly and competently debriefed about his telephone conversation with the subject.
Failure to provide as a matter of urgency an experienced negotiator to act with Sergeant Jackson.
Failure to advise that the negotiators should operate from Farrell’s house, Burke’s house or the Carthy new house and to negotiate from there.
Failure to appreciate that it was unsafe to negotiate from the Carthy boundary wall having regard to the subject’s violent conduct with his gun and that persevering with use of that place afforded him continuing opportunities to humiliate the gardaı´ by forcing them to duck up and down behind the wall. Apart from the risk of garda injury, this undermined the possibility of establishing rapport with the subject. Police experts were highly critical of the use of the selected negotiation point.
(j) Having regard to the importance in the mind of the subject of having the benefit of a solicitor at the scene as expressed by him to Mr. Ireland, and to be derived also from his earlier requests for a solicitor, failure to ascertain the identity of the Carthy family solicitor, or the subject’s own local solicitor, and to bring such a person to the scene for the purpose of speaking to Mr. Carthy by mobile phone or megaphone there as a matter of urgency. Failure to appreciate that a solicitor probably could secure, if necessary, the co-operation of the DPP (if not already obtained by the gardaı´) regarding the arrest of the subject; and of the county manager in postponing demolition of the old house pending further discussion after medical treatment — thus opening the door to a real possibility for ending the impasse without humiliating the subject by having to surrender to the police
and face arrest and detention by them. Failure to appreciate that his repeated requests for a solicitor might indicate that the subject may have been contemplating the ending of the siege on negotiated terms.
(k) In the interest of calming the situation and of avoiding a further escalation of distress for a person already suffering from an exacerbation of serious mental illness, failure to respond to the subject’s request as a heavy smoker for cigarettes.
(l) Locating the vehicle used as the command post on the Abbeylara road a short distance from the Carthy property.
(m) Permitting the vicinity of the command vehicle to be a focal point where local armed officers and uniformed men gathered from time to time, including some spectators who had no purpose in being there.
(n) Failure to maintain a sterile area between the ERU inner cordon and the local uniformed outer cordon free of personnel and vehicles at all times, save only gardaı´ having a specific official purpose for being at the scene.
(o) Failure to reassign all armed local officers when replaced by the ERU tactical unit.
(p) Failure to instruct all officers in range of the Carthy property and those within the sterile area between cordons to remain safely under cover at all times and to keep the Abbeylara road free of vehicles and personnel.
(q) Failure to devise with Sergeant Jackson and put into operation a viable strategy for negotiating with the subject for the purpose of bringing the siege to a successful conclusion.
(r) Exposing Ms Marie Carthy, Dr. Shanley, Mr. Martin Shelly and Mr. Tom Walsh to the risk of danger while waiting in a police car parked on the Abbeylara road near the Walsh property at the time when the subject, armed with his shotgun, vacated his house and headed in their direction.
(s) Failure to devise with Detective Sergeant Russell, the ERU tactical commander, and have recorded, a detailed, viable plan for moving containment if the subject, while armed with his gun, made an uncontrolled exit from his house.
(t) Failure to park the command vehicle in the curtilage of a house over the brow of the hill near the Abbeylara Church and have it fitted with (i) CCTV equipment to provide comprehensive views of the old Carthy dwelling, and (ii) radio equipment for contact with all officers at the scene (ERU and local). Alternatively, failure to utilise accommodation in Walsh’s or Burke’s house, or other appropriate location, as a command centre and fit it with similar TV and radio equipment. (See evidence of Mr. Bailey and Mr. Burdis in Chapter 6, section A3, part 2).
(u) Failure to appoint a full-time log keeper to have and maintain logs, for the benefit of the scene commanders and others, of information obtained and decisions made.
(v) Failure to have and maintain a comprehensive negotiator’s log.
(w) After the event, failure to have the guns and ammunition which local armed gardaı´ had at the scene, collected and examined by ballistics experts.
I have no doubt that the garda management of the siege at Abbeylara and related matters were defective in the foregoing respects and fell far short of what was required to contend with the situation successfully and to minimise the risk to life.
SECTION P: — What might have been done at Abbeylara
As already stated, the focal point of John Carthy’s violent behaviour appears to have been a decision on his part to defend the old family home against all comers, including the Garda Siocha´na. It seems clear that he had what his mental state at that time caused him to perceive to be a coercive reason for taking that course, i.e., the imminent demolition of the old house which was intimately associated in his mind with his late father. That situation was aggravated by the fact that his father had died on Holy Thursday and the tenth anniversary of his death was at hand. Holy Thursday, 2000 was the second day of the impasse. John Carthy’s fear after his father’s death that he had failed him was a factor which cropped up in some manifestations of his mental illness over the years. It also emerged that, as his mother’s scribe, but more likely on his own account, he had endeavoured in 1998 without success to persuade the local authority to sanction retention of the old home in addition to the provision of a new dwelling. In the end these facts appear to have coalesced in John Carthy’s mind around what he perceived to be a central tragedy waiting to happen, i.e., destruction of his father’s home. No one can know what exactly was in his mind. Arising out of his mental state he may have perceived having a duty towards his father’s memory to defend the old home and this has some degree of confirmation from his explanation to his mother of having an intention to defend it against all comers. There is no doubt that the accumulation of serious adverse events in the life of John Carthy at that time led eventually in the days immediately before Holy Thursday, 2000 to a major escalation of his bipolar disorder and a manifestation of violent conduct which had never happened previously. The arrival of the police, although anticipated by the subject on 1 9th April in an observation to Ms Alice Farrell, was a seriously aggravating factor in the light of his apparently pathological antagonism towards them. His violent conduct vis a` vis the gardaı´ from the beginning clearly points to the fact, which probably would have been apparent to the negotiator if he had been properly instructed, that the subject would not voluntarily surrender his gun to the police. Protracted efforts made by Detective Sergeant Jackson also established the probability that John Carthy would not negotiate with him or any other police officer.
It emerged during the siege that two important factors were on the subject’s mind which might have been utilised by the negotiator to good effect. First, as already indicated, his fear of the imminent demolition of the old family home and, secondly, a fear that his conduct in carrying out his stand-off would result in receiving a long prison sentence. These points allied to obvious difficulty in communication, and what
should have been a realisation by the negotiator that it would be advantageous that the police should be seen by the subject as apparently dropping out of the negotiating equation and being replaced by others in whom he had confidence, trust and respect. It is evident that it was desirable to utilise an alternative means of communication and to create a scenario in the nature of a ‘‘victory’’ for John Carthy. The evidence indicates that he appeared to have remained capable of constructive thought — vide his communication with Kevin Ireland. He knew that he was low in cartridges and probably realised that he could not continue the stand-off indefinitely. It is likely that he was aware in the afternoon of the second day that time was running out for him and that possible capitulation to the police was beginning to loom large — a situation he would have abhorred. I apprehend that by the afternoon of 20th April, if not before, John Carthy may have become amenable to meaningful negotiation — in particular if structured in the form of a ‘‘victory’’ which he might regard as justifying to himself his violent conduct.
It seems to me that two steps should have been taken to deal with the subject’s fears. First, I apprehend that there would have been no difficulty in obtaining the cooperation of the county manager in writing a letter to John Carthy stating that the local authority would not demolish the old home but would await further consultation with him and his solicitor after hospital treatment. As indicated already, this would not commit the authority to anything more than temporary postponement of the proposed demolition. I also apprehend the likelihood that the Director of Public Prosecutions would be prepared to assist in defusing the situation by writing a letter to Assistant Commissioner Hickey (or to arrange with the State Solicitor for County Longford to write on his behalf) informing him that if the subject agreed to abandon his gun and to take up immediately Dr. Shanley’s offer of treatment at St. Patrick’s hospital, the director would postpone any action in the matter pending the outcome of hospital treatment and a report from Dr. Shanley on John Carthy’s future. Accordingly, there would be no need to arrest or charge the subject with any offence pending the outcome of medical treatment and Dr. Shanley’s report. Bearing in mind that the subject was not a criminal in any real sense and that his conduct was motivated by serious mental illness, I apprehend that in the interest of humanity the DPP probably would have agreed to postpone arrest on the foregoing terms. He would lose nothing by so doing and might save life.
The advantage of having the foregoing major problems in John Carthy’s mind dealt with in correspondence is that letters may be read and re-read before the subject decides how he will respond. Viva voce communications, even by private phone, may trigger an immediate negative response which might not happen if there is time for reflection as would be the case where writing is utilised as the means of communication. I have in mind that, the foregoing letters having being obtained, Dr. Shanley would write to John Carthy expressing his understanding of the two crises on his patient’s mind and explaining that there had been an encouraging response from the county manager and from the Director of Public Prosecutions. He would enclose the letters from both of them and comment that the subject’s fear of imminent demolition of the old home had been met and nothing would be done until a further consultation was held by the manager with John Carthy and his solicitor
after conclusion of his treatment at St. Patrick’s. Furthermore, his fear of arrest and of a prison sentence had been defused. Dr. Shanley would go on to confirm his offer of immediate treatment at St. Patrick’s hospital and end by recommending his patient to avail of what had been achieved by leaving his house without his gun at an appointed time; meet the doctor and his sister on the road at his gateway and then travel with them to St. Patrick’s hospital to commence treatment there. I have in mind also that, if Dr. Shanley approved, Ms Carthy would write to her brother telling him how happy she was about what he had achieved and encouraging him about his future after treatment at St. Patrick’s.
As already pointed out, an alternative way of presenting the foregoing scenario would have been through the provision of an appropriately briefed solicitor at the scene as required by the subject. As already stated, the advantage of so doing does not appear to have been adverted to by the negotiator, the scene commanders or their senior officers.
It seems likely that a negotiating strategy on the foregoing lines would have had the following positive aspects in John Carthy’s mind:
(a) It would achieve at least a postponement of the demolition of the old family home and open the possibility of persuading the county manager to permit the family to retain the old house. (A concept it is probable in the end he would not wish to pursue assuming that the proposed in-patient treatment by Dr. Shanley was successful).
He would avoid immediate arrest and detention by the police.
After hospital treatment and, if successful, a favourable report from Dr. Shanley, the DPP might decide that, if his gun licence was withdrawn and he disposed of his weapon, John Carthy would not present a future risk and that his conduct at Abbeylara was the product of mental illness and was not criminal in nature. In those circumstances it would not be unreasonable for the subject to hope that no criminal charge would be brought against him.
(d) It would avoid the humiliation of the surrender of his gun to the police or any need to negotiate with them.
In the context of the foregoing scenario, it seems likely that if Dr. Shanley had been brought to the negotiating point and had briefly explained to John Carthy by mobile phone or by loudhailer what had been achieved with the county manager and the DPP, he would have accepted delivery of the letters at his hall door, or at some other convenient part of the house, and would not regard it as an unacceptable invasion of his privacy. The letters would have been confirmation of important advantages which had been obtained and, therefore, factors which were positively in his favour and perhaps, in his mind, justification for his conduct.
As already stated elsewhere in this chapter, John Carthy’s repeated insistence on obtaining the benefit of a solicitor at the scene, and particularly his statement to Kevin Ireland that he would give himself up if he got a solicitor, were factors that
had potential for being turned to major advantage which ought to have been realised and explored by the scene commander and the negotiator. Provision of a solicitor at the scene — if necessary the family solicitor — should have been regarded as a matter of urgent priority. It seems to me that postponement of arrest and also demolition of the old home, if presented and recommended to the subject by a trusted solicitor, is likely to have had a reasonable prospect of opening the door to a successful ending of the impasse — particularly as Mr. Carthy’s mind may have been moving towards the possibility of a negotiated settlement at that time.
Sadly, it is not possible to do more than speculate on whether or not there may have been a successful outcome to any plan on the foregoing lines. In the event, no realistic negotiating strategy had been devised or attempted. Essentially all that had been done was to bring several close friends of the subject, one by one, to the negotiating point with instructions to try to persuade him to surrender. None of them had any success — probably because that ploy was naive. It gave the subject nothing in return. In the end, John Carthy took matters into his own hands by leaving his house and walking towards Abbeylara with only one cartridge in his gun and having ignored the armed ERU men around him. Was his intention simply to buy cigarettes or perhaps to meet Dr. Shanley and his sister who he knew were at the scene and surrender his gun to them or had he some other motive in leaving the house? We will never know the answer to those questions either. For reasons which I have already expressed, his death should not have happened.
SECTION Q: — The Confiscation and Return of the Gun — Dr. Shanley’s Letter
I have referred to the evidence on this topic earlier in this chapter in the context of informal complaints made by Mrs. Evelyn McLoughin to gardaı´ at Granard station (see Section B). However, there are other aspects of it, and related matters which require consideration regarding the confiscation and return of John Carthy’s firearm in 1998. My observations thereon are as follows.
The first issue with which I am concerned is whether it was appropriate for Dr. Shanley, the subject’s psychiatrist, to write a letter to Superintendent Cullinane of Granard supporting the return of Mr. Carthy’s shotgun to him. As already stated, in August, 1998 Garda Cassidy, acting on instructions from a superior, caused Mr. Carthy to hand over his shotgun for an alleged reason which was untrue, i.e., a garda directive that all licensed guns in the area were to be taken in for examination. Garda Cassidy’s instruction arose out of a complaint made by Mrs. McLoughlin about Mr. Carthy. She had been a near neighbour of the Carthy family for many years and is the wife of Brendan McLoughlin, a local building contractor, who had employed John Carthy in 1998. They had had a ‘‘falling out’’ which had lead to the ending of Mr. Carthy’s employment and subsequently a claim by him for wrongful dismissal. Mrs. McLoughlin had known the subject all his life and was aware that he had a history of mental illness. On 11th August, 1998 she made an informal complaint about the subject to Garda Newton at Granard station where she was a casual employee. She
expressed concern that the subject was in her view ‘‘mentally unstable’’. She had a fear that the dispute with her husband might cause Mr. Carthy to harm both of them with his shotgun. She was invited to make a formal complaint but declined to do so because of the long relationship as neighbours between the two families. She was also concerned that any formal complaint might appear to be ‘‘in retaliation’’ for Mr. Carthy’s threat of legal proceedings regarding the employment dispute. I do not doubt Mrs. McLoughlin’s bona fides in expressing her fears to the gardaı´. She raised the topic separately with two officers. Mr. McLoughlin gave evidence that the subject had never made any threats to him. His wife also informed the Tribunal in evidence that in 1998 ‘‘somebody’’ had mentioned to her that Mr. Carthy ‘‘was supposed to have gone down to the local handball alley and threatened the children’’. She agreed that that allegation was third-hand information. There was no evidence that her own children, who were occasional users of the handball alley, had made any such complaint to her. In consequence of the allegation made against Mr. Carthy, it was decided by Station Sergeant Nally that pending completion of investigations into it, the subject’s shotgun should be taken into custody and his licence should not be renewed. Garda Cassidy was instructed to recover the gun. He feared that Mr. Carthy might not voluntarily hand over the weapon and for that reason, he (Cassidy) resorted to the subterfuge that all licensed guns in the district were required for checking. That explanation was accepted by Mr. Carthy and the gun was voluntarily handed over by him. Garda Cassidy did not inform the subject about the allegations made against him by Mrs. McLoughlin. Although, in a strict sense, subterfuge should not be resorted to by the gardaı´ in their dealings with members of the public, nonetheless, it is reasonable that practical realities should be taken into account. Garda Cassidy’s fear that there might be difficulty in persuading Mr. Carthy to hand over possession of the gun on the basis of the alleged complaints about him was understandable and what he did to surmount the difficulty was not unreasonable in all the circumstances. The subsequent obtaining of a letter of support from Mr. Carthy’s psychiatrist was also an appropriate factor in persuading Superintendent Cullinane to direct return of the gun to the subject and the renewal of his licence. However, it is also pertinent to note that the superintendent, or any other garda officer, did not contact Dr. Shanley or Dr. Cullen then or at any time before events on 19th/20th April , 2000, and also that no subsequent complaints were made against Mr. Carthy until 1 9th April of that year at the commencement of the fatal event.
Mr. Carthy called to Granard garda station and raised the issue of the return of his shotgun on numerous occasions. It appears that he was not told the true reason why the weapon had been taken from him. Eventually on 6th October, 1998 he had a meeting with Superintendent Cullinane, since retired. It appears that he learned from him for the first time about the allegations which had been made against him. He denied to the superintendent that he had ever threatened anyone and that, while he did have depression in the past, he had attended a psychiatrist in Dublin and was then in good health. Superintendent Cullinane explained to him that before the firearm could be returned he had to be satisfied that he would not pose a danger to anyone if he possessed a gun. In the light of the foregoing requirement, Mr. Carthy’s first move was to contact Dr. Cullen, his general practitioner, to obtain a letter of support from him. His response to him was that ‘‘in the event that he became unwell
and the gardaı´ needed to get the gun back... what would he feel about that?’’ The reply he received was that ‘‘the gardaı´ would have to take the gun off him’’, i.e., that he would not hand it over voluntarily in those circumstances. Dr. Cullen stated in evidence that he didn’t refuse to support his patient but indicated that he would postpone a decision in the matter. This caused Mr. Carthy to raise the requirement with his psychiatrist, Dr. Shanley, when seen by him for treatment on 8th October, 1998. There was no evidence of depression or elation found at that time. He explained to Dr. Shanley that a letter was required to indicate that he (the psychiatrist) was of the view that Mr. Carthy was fit to possess a firearm at that time. Dr. Shanley was not aware until then that his patient had a gun. He was told by the subject that the police had taken in all the guns from ‘‘all over the county for a routine check’’. (It will be noted that by then the subject had been made aware by Superintendent Cullinane of the true reason for obtaining possession of his gun. He did not inform his doctor of the allegations made against him, nor that he had been arrested shortly before then in connection with the burning of the goat mascot). Dr. Shanley’s letter of 13th October, 1998 addressed to the Superintendent at Granard garda station is in the following terms:
Mr. John Carthy has given me permission to write to you. He is a patient of mine for some years and in my opinion is fit to use a firearm. When last seen on 8th October, 1998 he was very well. He has been treated for depression and elation in the past and should the situation change his general practitioner will be in touch with your office.
This letter was not copied to Dr. Cullen. Dr. Shanley accepted in evidence that he should have done so. Before writing the letter of support he did not contact the general practitioner or the gardaı´ in Granard. He was not aware of Dr. Cullen’s view about John Carthy’s fitness to hold a firearm at that time.
Dr. Shanley stated in evidence that he ‘‘gave this letter of support on the basis of knowing John over a number of years; on the basis that he had been stable from a psychiatric point of view; on the basis that he was conscientious about coming to see me which involved long distance; on the basis that he took his serum of lithium regularly and that it was always within therapeutic range’’. He stated that if he had been aware on 8th October, 1998 of the allegations of threats allegedly made by Mr. Carthy involving possible use of the shotgun his action would have been to see his patient again and make a further assessment.
On 30th October, 1998 John Carthy completed his application for a firearms certificate. It was accompanied by a letter of consent from his mother to the holding of the firearm in her house. On 13th November, 1998 the shotgun was returned to Mr. Carthy together with the requisite firearms certificate. No further complaints were made to the gardaı´ and the certificate was renewed in the following year in the ordinary way.
In all the circumstances was it reasonable for Dr. Shanley to write the letter to Superintendent Cullinane in support of Mr. Carthy’s application to have his shotgun returned? The expert psychiatric opinions on this topic are divided.
Dr. Sheehan’s opinion was that, in the light of the evidence which ultimately emerged, he would not have supported the application for return of the gun to Mr. Carthy. However, he agreed that, given the information available to Dr. Shanley at the time when he wrote the letter, his assessment and the factors which he took into account when deciding to support the application for return of the gun were appropriate. He believed that the letter should have been copied to Dr. Cullen and that if that had happened it probably would have led to a pooling of their information and perhaps a different assessment by Dr. Shanley.
Dr. Kennedy stated in evidence that he would not have written the letter of support if he had known the true reason why the gun had been obtained by the police, i.e., the allegations of threats made by Mr. Carthy (though ultimately unsubstantiated).
Professor Fahy’s opinion was that as John Carthy had a history of bipolar affective disorder and of episodic alcohol abuse, such reasons alone should on medical grounds, have disqualified him from holding a firearm. In his opinion such conditions place an individual at risk of erratic, aggressive or uninhibited behaviour. There is at least a ten per cent risk of suicide which is increased by alcohol abuse. He expressed the opinion that if such an individual has possession of a gun he/she has a convenient method of suicide available that increases the overall risk. He stated that he would have had ‘‘little hesitation’’ in refusing to supply a letter of support in the circumstances. He was critical of Dr. Shanley’s reasoning for writing the letter.
Professor Malone expressed the opinion that most psychiatrists, having the information that was available to Dr. Shanley, would have come to the same view and would have provided the letter of support. He commented that Dr. Shanley had taken into account the subject’s past history — the absence of any suicidal behaviour; the fact that he was stable from a psychiatric point of view and compliant with his treatment regime. He believed that John Carthy had a degree of insight and understanding into his condition and was motivated to attend Dr. Shanley and to adhere to his treatment. Professor Malone concluded that that was indicative of the therapeutic alliance that existed between Dr. Shanley and his patient. He thought that Dr. Shanley was probably the person best placed to make the assessment he made in October, 1998, having regard to his in-depth understanding of his patient and his expertise.
It is noted that Professor Malone emphasised the importance of the therapeutic alliance which he stated was the essence of the doctor/patient relationship: ‘‘It involves empathy, basic trust present in a non-judgemental, unconditional, positive regard.. .’’. He considered that the letter of support from Dr. Shanley was a vote of confidence in his patient and he felt that if the psychiatrist had failed to provide the letter of support it may well have fractured the therapeutic alliance, which could have the consequence of John Carthy being less inclined to reach out when he was
in difficulty. Professor Malone’s conclusion as expressed to the Tribunal in evidence was that:
‘‘based on all the clinical evidence that Dr. Shanley had in his possession in 1998, [he] made a recommendation to the gardaı´ that there was no medical con traindications to Mr. Carthy having a gun licence at that time... obviously Dr. Shanley was factoring primarily the suicide risk, and in this regard Mr. Carthy had never made a suicide attempt previously during which time he experienced several severe depressive episodes. With regard to the homicidal risk, Mr. Carthy had not been involved as far as Dr. Shanley was aware, or I am aware, in any significant interpersonal violence, nor had he made any threats of a homicidal nature to anybody at the time of assessment in October, 1998 . . .’’.
In reviewing the foregoing evidence, it is important to appreciate that Dr. Shanley’s decision to write the letter of support for return of the shotgun to Mr. Carthy must be assessed in the context of the information available to him in October, 1998 and not that which has since emerged. He was not aware of allegations made against Mr. Carthy at third-hand which the police were unable to substantiate on investigation. He had substantial experience at that time of treating his patient over a period of three years; he had no evidence suggesting a suicide attempt previously; there was no evidence that he had been involved in any significant interpersonal violence previously and, though in possession of a shotgun for the previous seven years, there was no evidence, known to Dr. Shanley, that there had been threats to anyone of a homicidal nature by Mr. Carthy. It seems to me that Professor Malone’s concern for preservation of the therapeutic alliance between doctor and patient which he regards as being the essence of their relationship, is a factor of particular significance. In the light of the information available to him when being asked to write the letter of support, was it reasonable for Dr. Shanley to take into account the preservation of the therapeutic alliance between him and his patient, including its importance in the interest of the latter. In my view it was appropriate to do so and to furnish the requisite letter of support. There is one other aspect of the matter, i.e., not copying the letter to Dr. Cullen. Dr. Shanley accepts that he should have done so. However, there is no evidence that if he had received a copy of the letter, Dr. Cullen would have sought to influence a change of opinion on the part of the specialist.
Finally, one other matter regarding the confiscation of Mr. Carthy’s gun should be considered. The garda investigation appears to have established that there was no substance to the fears expressed by Mrs. McLoughlin for her own safety and particularly that of her husband arising out of Mr. Carthy’s possession of a gun and the dispute he had with Mr. McLoughlin about alleged wrongful dismissal from employment. As already stated, the latter gave evidence that he had received no physical threats from the subject. The other contention about possible threats to children also appears to have had no foundation. It follows, therefore, that there was no apparent justification for obtaining possession of Mr. Carthy’s gun and for retaining it. The facts indicate that having learned about the fears expressed by Mrs. McLoughlin, the local gardaı´ were premature in immediately securing possession of the subject’s gun by subterfuge before investigating the matter. Ultimately, it
emerged that the only possible justification for taking the gun was that Mr. Carthy had previously suffered from mental illness and that step was taken without seeking any medical information or opinion to justify it. An important consequence of the garda conduct is that the creation of one cause for Mr. Carthy’s distrust of and antagonism towards the gardaı´ (which loomed large at Abbeylara) would not have arisen. That might have improved the possibility of successful negotiation with him.
The evidence of Mr. Patrick Reilly establishes that the garda recovery of the gun by subterfuge, prior to the investigation of alleged complaints, had a major lingering effect on Mr. Carthy. Mr. Reilly, a neighbour of the Carthy family who had known the subject all his life, was also a member of the same gun club and had experience of shooting with him. He gave evidence on two matters. First, that John Carthy was a person who was very careful with his firearm and was not one who would take chances with his gun (evidence which was supported by Mr. Bernard Brady also). Secondly, he stated that Mr. Carthy told him about the gun being taken from him by the police and he believed that his friend had ‘‘a lingering sore’’ about what had happened. He stated that Mr. Carthy’s pride was seriously injured and that the taking of the gun was a big issue for him. Mr. Reilly thought that Mr. Carthy bore a grudge against the gardaı´ and blamed them for wrongly taking his gun. It was a topic mentioned to him several times by the subject.