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Concerns over monitoring as officers attacked by man out of jail on licence

By Deborah McAleese

Concern has been raised over the monitoring of violent offenders after a man on licence from prison choked a police officer and threatened to shoot a number of hospital nurses.

Justice Minister Claire Sugden came under criticism for refusing to order a serious case review into how Daniel Barry McGonnell was able to reoffend while on strict parole conditions.

The criminal, who has a string of violent convictions including hijack and kidnap, was on licence when he attacked two police officers who were responding to a 999 call from a woman who claimed he had punched her in the face.

Officers had to call for emergency back-up when McGonnell grabbed one of the constables in a choke-hold and punched him repeatedly about the head. He also repeatedly kicked a female officer. Following a struggle, during which CS spray was used by police, McGonnell was taken to hospital for a check-up but threatened to shoot nursing staff.

Ms Sugden was asked by the DUP's Maurice Morrow to order a serious case review. However she said McGonnell's most recent offences did not meet "the serious violent offence threshold".

Ms Sugden added that there were "no grounds to suggest that there has been a significant failure in his risk management".

But Lord Morrow demanded a rethink and warned that "when re-offending takes place to this level, measures imposed have clearly failed".

He added that the case was yet another example of a system "which is not victim or public safety-centred".

Last month, McGonnell (27), from Molesworth Street in Cookstown, was jailed for nine months for attacking a woman and two police officers.

The court was told that in October last year police received a 999 call from a distressed woman who claimed to have been punched in the face.

Two PSNI constables who responded to the call found the criminal in an "extremely volatile" and aggressive state in Union Place in Cookstown.

One officer attempted to restrain him, but McGonnell grabbed him by the throat, put him in a choke-hold and punched him about the head.

The constable had to punch him several times in order to get him to release his grip around his neck, the court was told. McGonnell then was taken to hospital where he refused to sit to be X-rayed and shouted to nursing staff: "I'll get an AK and riddle you".

McGonnell has a history of violent offences. In 2008, he appeared in court charged with kidnap, hijacking a taxi and assaulting a police officer following a cross-border chase by gardai.

Lord Morrow said he was concerned that McGonnell had been released from prison on licence "given violent tendencies and attitudes". He added that "in the interests of public safety and the prevention and protection of further victims", the Justice Minister should urgently "rethink the stonewalling of requests for serious cases reviews on the grounds of criteria".

"Once again, we are witnessing a system which is not victim or public safety-centred, and that is an egregious flaw in perspective and practice," he insisted.

"It is imperative we have a system which is demonstrably victim and public safety-orientated."

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