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Garda killer had escaped from same prison before

More details have emerged in the case of Martin McDermott, who was serving time for the manslaughter of a garda when he escaped from a Cavan prison earlier this month.

Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

THE PRISONER WHO escaped from a low-security prison in Cavan while serving time for the manslaughter of a garda had absconded from the same prison before, a report into the incident has revealed.

The news emerged as Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said the decision to put a convicted killer into the minimum-security Loughan House prison was wrong.

Shatter said not enough consideration had been given to the gravity of the “heinous offence” which had been committed by Martin McDermott.

A report compiled by the Irish Prison Service shows that McDermott, 26 – who was serving a seven year sentence for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin in Donegal in 2009 – had previously escaped from Loughan House in 2007 while in custody for a previous offence.

He absconded from custody at the low-security unit in November of that year and returned six days later.

The report gives the reasons why Martin McDermott was transferred to Loughan House a second time, revealing that the Midlands Prison where he had previously been in custody was overcrowded at the time, as were Mountjoy and Cork jails. It states:

The Midlands Prison serves as a relief valve for both Cork and Mountjoy Prison during times of severe overcrowding.

McDermott had led gardaí on a high-speed chase before crashing into McLoughlin’s patrol car, killing him.

Shatter also commented on the decision to transfer him to Loughan House, saying:

It was felt that this would facilitate family visits and would have been beneficial from a rehabilitative perspective. Having considered the facts of the case it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that this decision was wrong

The Minister added:

First and foremost, in making the decision sufficient consideration was not given to the gravity of the heinous offence which had been committed. Neither was adequate consideration given to other criteria that should have been taken into account.

The report by the Irish Prison Service found that McDermott had been transferred to Loughan House just twelve days before he absconded on 15 March.

The report also found that McDermott was first noticed missing during a lunchtime check but gardaí and the Irish Prison Service Headquarters weren’t notified until 5.25pm that day.

McDermott is currently in custody in Northern Ireland serving a four month sentence for assaulting a PSNI officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage.

Minister Shatter said he has directed that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that a mistake of this nature does not reoccur.

“In this context, I have been assured by the Director General of the Irish Prison Service that all necessary steps are currently being taken to prevent such a reoccurrence,” he said.

- Additional reporting by Michael Freeman

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