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by Ronan Judge
February 5, 2013
THE brother of a man whose body was concealed for 19 days in an Ennis apartment yesterday strongly critcised a decision to impose a suspended sentence on a man convicted of making a false statement to gardaí.after it was heard in Ennis Circuit Criminal Court.
Bernard Flaherty (38), with an address at 3 Lifford Lodge, had previously pleaded guilty to a charge of making a false statement to gardaí on June 24 , 2011.
Last December the Court heard how Mr Flaherty wrapped the body of Frank Hassett in plastic and placed him in the shower after he died in Mr Flaherty’s apartment at 3 Lifford Lodge sometime between the hours of June 14 and 15, 2011.
A post morten, the court heard, did not establish a cause of death.
Mr Hassett (25) had been reported missing to gardaí in Ennis by his family on June 20, 2011.
Imposing a three-year suspended sentence, Judge Carroll Moran said he had never come across a sentence like it in his 15 years as judge.
Judge Moran said, “This is a most unusual case, this was extraordinary behaviour from the accused, indicative of a highly dysfunctional attitude rather than a criminal propensity.”
Immediately after the verdict was heard, Ian Hassett, who was standing in court, said, “This is a fucking joke.” Mr Hassett left the court after speaking.
Judge Moran responding by asking who made the statement. He added, “I wish people who said that would come up here and do my job, send people to prison and see how easy it is.”
The court heard how Mr Hassett’s disappearance sparked a major garda investigation in Ennis.
Gardaí interviewed 40 people and took 17 statements. Up to 14 gardaí were involved in the search while 50 hours of CCTV footage were viewed. In total, the court heard, 837 hours of Garda time were spent on the investigation.
Members of the Hassett family and local civil defence volounteers also conducted numerous searches of the River Fergus. Judge Moran said, “This was a major police operation.”
Gardaí called to Mr Flaherty’s apartment on June 24.
He requested that the interview take place at the Garda station. Summing up the case, Judge Moran said Mr Flaherty told gardaí he last saw Mr Hassett at 8.10pm outside MT Pocket’s Pub, Lifford, on June 14.
The court heard that gardaí found no evidence to corroborate the accused’s version of events. Gardaí revisited 3 Lifford Lodge on July 3. At this point, the court heard, Mr Flaherty started to cry and told gardaí that Mr Hassett’s body had been in his apartment for 19 days. Dental records and a tattoo on his body were used to identify Mr Hassett.
Mr Flaherty told gardaí that Mr Hassett called to his house on the night of June 14 looking for some place to stay.
The court heard they took anti-depressant and anti-anxiety prescribed medication and smoked cannabis.
The court heard Mr Flaherty said he went to the post office the next morning. He told gardaí when he returned home, he found the deceased “blue and cold”.
He brought Mr Hassett to the shower and tried to revive him with hot water, the court heard. When this failed, the court heard, Mr Flaherty wrapped the body in plastic and left him the shower.
Counsel for Mr Flaherty, Michael Collins BL, said the accused had led a chaotic lifestyle.
A report from a consultant psychiatrist handed into court stated that Mr Flaherty does not suffer from a psychological disorder but that his problems stem from a long-standing poly-substance abuse and dependence. Judge Moran offered his sympathies to the Hassett family.
He said, “They had to suffer the trauma of losing him (Frank Hassett) and subsequently what happened afterwards.”
Judge Moran added, “They were robbed of an opportunity to say goodbye to him.”
Judge Moran said the facts in the case were unique.
He said the wasting of a police time was an aggravating factor in the case. He imposed a three year suspended sentence.