Minister McDowell publishes Dean Lyons Case Report
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Michael McDowell, T.D., today published the Report of the Commission of Investigation into the Dean Lyons case. The Commission was established by Government Order on 7 February 2006 and its sole member was Mr George Birmingham SC.
For the first time the Report offers a thorough independent analysis of the facts surrounding the false confession made by Dean Lyons based on the evidence of all relevant witnesses. It concludes that there was no deliberate attempt made to undermine the rights of Dean Lyons. Instead, inappropriate leading questions were inadvertently asked of him by interviewing Gardaí - a failure which in turn equipped him with the information to maintain a credible (albeit false) confession. He maintained this position for over a month - not alone to Gardaí but also to a wide variety of other persons including his legal advisers.
With the benefit of independent experts, the Report concludes that Dean Lyon's confessions were attributable to prior existing vulnerabilities within his personality which were compounded by his heroin addiction. The Report states that some of those same Gardai who interviewed him openly expressed scepticism as to his credibility at case conferences but these doubts were never conveyed to the DPP as they should have been prior to the latter's initial decision to direct charges.
In the Commission's view, the Garda written records of some of the interviews with Dean Lyons were incomplete, potentially misleading and could have led to a miscarriage of justice.
Finally, the decision of the original investigation team, three months after their original recommendation, to recommend to the DPP that the existing charge of murder against Dean Lyons should proceed and that an additional charge should be laid in respect of the second fatality is described by the Commission as "difficult to understand and even harder to justify". This comment was made in the light of the fact that at the time Assistant Commissioner McHugh was in the process of conducting an analysis of the various admissions on behalf of the Commissioner - an analysis which ultimately contributed to the DPP's decision to drop the charges.
Publishing the Report Minister McDowell said, "I hope this Report will be of some comfort to those whose lives have been so deeply afflicted by this tragedy - in particular the family of Dean Lyons and the families of the murder victims.
I am sending a copy of the Report to the Garda Commissioner for his consideration. I am also sending a copy to the Expert Group which I established in the light of concerns arising from the Dean Lyons case. The Group will be reporting to me, I expect before the end of the year, on the adequacy of Garda training, protocols, regulations and procedures, in assessing the fitness of persons to be interviewed and on the recording of any bona fide reservations of an individual member of a Garda investigation team as to the truthfulness or accuracy of self - incriminating statements. I have already stated publicly that I will publish their report."
The Report is the first of its kind to be published following the establishment of a new style Commission of Investigation - a system which was intended to enhance in a significant way the State's ability to conduct formal independent inquiries in a cost effective and timely manner. The Commission's work was completed in less than six months at a cost of less than Euro 1 million.
"I am pleased to note that the provisions of the Commissions of Investigation Act 2004 which I availed of in this case have ensured a timely and cost effective investigation without in any way compromising or encroaching on its proper conduct. I am indebted to Mr Birmingham and his legal and administrative personnel for the thorough manner in which they performed this most difficult and sensitive of tasks", the Minister said.
The Report is available on the Department's website, www.justice.ie.
1 September 2006
Note for Editors
The Expert Group comprises ex Asst Commissioner Tony Hickey, Mr Charles Smith ex Director of the Central Mental Hospital, Mr David Gormally of the DPP's Office and Ms Vera Kelly, Principal Officer, Dept of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.