The Irish Prison Service has forwarded its report regarding the circumstances surrounding the transfer to, and escape from, Loughan House of Prisoner Martin McDermott.
Martin McDermott from Raphoe, County Donegal was found guilty of the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin during an incident with a stolen car in December 2009. Following a high speed chase, a Garda car was rammed by a stolen car driven by him and tragically Garda Gary McLoughlin was fatally injured.
He was remanded in custody on 23 December 2009 and was subsequently convicted of a range of offences the most serious being manslaughter, endangerment, and dangerous driving causing death. On 21 July 2011 he was sentenced to 8 years imprisonment with one suspended which was backdated to the date he was first remanded, 23 December 2009. He was due to be released on 23 March 2015.
He had been held in a closed prison since he was remanded in custody on 23 December, 2009. However, following a review meeting at the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise a decision was taken to transfer the prisoner to the open centre, Loughan House, in Blacklion, Co. Cavan. 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. 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.
Martin McDermott was transferred to Loughan House (from Midlands Prison) on 3 March, 2012, 27 months into his sentence, where on the 15 March 2012 he absconded. During a lunchtime check of prisoners in Loughan House on that date, he could not be accounted for and a search of all areas including the grounds was ordered. The search which was temporarily halted due to a separate incident in the prison (a prisoner attempted suicide by hanging) but resumed at 16.35 and staff were still unable to locate him. Gardaí at Ballyconnell Garda Station and Irish Prison Service Headquarters were notified at 17.25 that the prisoner had escaped.
On 17 March, 2012 Martin McDermott was apprehended by the PSNI in Derry and is currently in custody in Northern Ireland serving a 4 month sentence for assaulting PSNI Officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage. He will be subject to a European Arrest Warrant in due course.
Having considered the report, I have 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.
I would like to again express my regret at the upset and distress this episode may have caused the family, colleagues and friends of Garda Gary McLoughlin.
The full report will be made available on www.justice.ie
28 March 2012