Belfast Telegraph

No excuse in Garda killer case: IPS

The head of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) has said there is no excuse for the wrong transfer of a Garda killer to a low-security prison from which he later escaped.

Martin Donnellan, director general of the IPS, said officials who signed off the decision knew Martin McDermott had already absconded from Loughan House, Blacklion, Co Cavan, while serving a sentence in 2007.

"The fact was known," Mr Donnellan said. "He had previously escaped from Loughan House on November 27 2007 and returned three days later, and was then returned to a closed prison.

"This should've sounded, particularly with the second offence, it should've sounded a lot of alarms and it didn't."

The 26-year-old - jailed for seven years last July for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin in 2009 after ramming him with a car - was arrested in Derry by the Police Service of Northern Ireland earlier this month after going on the run.

He had also been the subject of two P-19 disciplinary reports while in the Midlands before his transfer and he has 91 previous offences. McDermott was only in Loughan 12 days before he escaped on March 3.

"There's no excuse here. This was a completely wrong decision in the circumstances," Mr Donnellan told the Oireachtas Justice Committee. "In the case where you have a loss of life, we should have a more robust system which reviews the case up along the line."

Mr Donnellan also said he wanted to offer an unreserved apology for the errors.

Following a report on the controversy, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the wrong decision had been made and prison officials did not give sufficient consideration to the gravity of the heinous offence committed. He said a series of criteria to allow for McDermott's transfer had been met by both the prisoner and review staff - except for the consideration of public safety.

"These criteria were met and the public criteria wasn't met," he said. "I would hope that we would learn very serious lessons from the incident."

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