Catriona Doherty, daughter of Seamus said:
“We are devastated at the decision not to proceed with the prosecution of Samuel James Clarke for the murder of our father. We consider that an Garda Síochána has serious questions to answer regarding its failure to properly preserve the crime scene and to conduct a proper technical examination leading to crucial lost evidential opportunities which, coupled with the inexcusable delay in bringing the prosecution, has irredeemably prejudiced the prospect of the State securing a successful conviction against Mr Clarke. In fact an Garda Síochána gave Mr Clarke a lift home on the evening of the murder, failing to treat him as a suspect, despite our father having sustained obvious injuries, and then permitted him to return to the scene on the following day to remove his vehicle.
“We will now be asking the DPP for detailed reasons for the decision to halt the prosecution and will be applying to the Coroner to resume the inquest into our father’s murder. We will also consider all available legal remedies open to us.”
On 27 February 2017 the State withdrew a murder charge against Samuel James Clarke for the murder of Seamus Doherty on 16/17 June 2012.
On 17 June 2012 at 1.50am, an Garda Síochána were notified of the death of Seamus Doherty yet they made no initial inquires despite the injuries that were present on the deceased’s body and the state of disarray at the scene. An Garda Síochána failed to notify the state pathologist immediately and did not launch a murder investigation until two days later on the 19 June 2012.
On 18 June 2012 Samuel James Clarke was permitted to return to the scene and remove his vehicle. A search warrant was subsequently required to seize the vehicle.
Mr Doherty’s family have encountered various difficulties with each statutory agency with which they have engaged.
On the 5 November 2012 a complaint was made regarding the initial handling of the murder investigation and treatment of the family by an Garda Síochána to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (“GSOC”). The GSOC investigation was commenced pursuant to Section 94, An Garda Síochána Act 2005 that is an unsupervised investigation. It should be noted that the investigation was subsequently changed by GSOC to a supervised investigation due a lack of cooperation of the Garda Management in the Donegal division. Further GSOC attributed the change in investigation “to what GSOC considered to be an unsatisfactory response from local Garda Management in Donegal to requests for the necessary information and especially the length of time it was taking.” The family were notified that GSOC submitted a report to the Garda Commissioner on the 27 February 2015 and were further notified that on 27 May 2015 that GSOC were completing a review of their report already submitted to the Garda Commissioner. The Doherty family were further notified that a revised report was submitted to the Garda Commissioner almost 5 months later on the 24 July 2015. On the 8 February 2017, over 4 years after the initial complaint was lodged, the family were finally notified that one member of An Garda Síochána has been found in breach of the discipline regulations. To that end, GSOC have refused to provide the family with the full report submitted to the Garda Commissioner.
The Doherty family note the GSOC Annual Report 2015 and recommendations therein made by GSOC to An Garda Síochána in the context of an investigation carried out by GSOC into allegations of neglect of duty in the investigation of a death:
· That the scenes of sudden death should be photographed as a matter of course;
· That the Garda Síochána consider that, when young or inexperienced members, are tasked with the investigation of a sudden and un-natural death, their decisions should be subject to supervision by a member of a higher rank; and
· That the Garda Síochána introduce a minimum national standard regarding the investigation of deaths for the Coronial process.
Finally, the handling of the investigation into Mr Doherty’s murder was referred to the Independent Review Mechanism which was established by the government to review certain allegations of Garda misconduct, or inadequacies in the investigation of such allegations and the family await the recommendations in relation to same.