THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE system is failing the public, the Garda Representative Association (GRA) has said following the publication of a report into the escape of Martin McDermott from Loughan House in Cavan earlier this month.
The group has called on the Minister for Justice and Defence Alan Shatter to “immediately address” the errors made and inadequacies highlighted in the Loughan House Report.
GRA President Damien McCarthy said his association is disturbed by the full facts and the case history surrounding the “soft sentencing” and absconding of a convicted garda killer who had “served only the early stage” of his prison term.
“We requested this report and are astounded by its contents,” he said in a statement. “It raises more questions than it answers.”
We welcome the Minister’s apology and admission that grave errors were made; but if this escape had not occurred we would never know how the sentence was being served.
The report is “not enough”, according to the GRA, to rectify the “serious wrongs” in the criminal justice system and steps now need to be taken to ensure such an event is not repeated.
McCarthy also told Shatter to reassure the public that he is “not soft on crime”.
Gardaí need to know they are protected by legislation – there must be effective deterrent to stop career criminals.
The GRA has claimed that there is a lack of transparency in sentences served by those caught and convicted. Its members believe that many criminals are on temporary release because of prison overcrowding. These releases often go against the advice of local gardaí.
“This revolving door policy means that criminals are back on the streets before the victims or gardaí have been informed. There are 2,000 fewer gardaí because of retirements and the recruitment ban, yet around 1,000 prisoners are released back onto the street before their time is served, putting further strain on an already overburdened system,” McCarthy continued.
Gardaí are continuing to perform their duties as shown by our full prisons – but the current policy of taking the soft option on crime must stop. Public safety must be put first.
The Loughan House Report examined the circumstances which saw McDermott abscond from the facility and travel across the border into Northern Ireland. The 26-year-old had been convicted of the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin.
McCarthy said that McLoughlin was “performing his sworn duty on behalf of the people when he was killed by a criminal attempting to flee the law”.
Earlier today, Shatter said the decision to transfer McDermott, who had 91 previous convictions, to a low-security prison was “a mistake”.
Several reasons for the transfer were outlined in the report, including further educational opportunities, moving him closer to family, and because other (higher security) prison facilities in the country were overcrowded.