Garda killer to be sentenced for endangering officer at checkpoint

Martin McDermott appeared at Donegal Circuit Court charged with endangering the life of Garda Michael Kilcoyne.
Garda killer to be sentenced for endangering officer at checkpoint

Stephen Maguire

A man who killed a Garda during a 30km pursuit has pleaded guilty to endangering the life of another Garda after driving his car at him during the Covid lockdown.

Martin McDermott appeared at Donegal Circuit Court charged with endangering the life of Garda Michael Kilcoyne. He has also pleaded guilty to driving without a licence, drink-driving and assault.

The court heard Garda Kilcoyne was operating a Covid checkpoint on the dual carriageway outside Letterkenny on the night of April 14th, 2020.

He was speaking to a driver and had indicated to another vehicle to slow down as it approached the checkpoint at Delta View, Magheramore, Manorcunningham.

Without warning, the driver of the second car increased his speed forcing Garda Kilcoyne to jump out of the way at around 10.20pm.

Gardaí pursued the car as it swerved the wrong way around a traffic island before losing control and crashing the car.

The driver fled and hid in undergrowth before Garda Kilcoyne found the accused, Martin McDermott.

Arrest

As he went to arrest McDermott, Garda Kilcoyne was kicked in the chest and sent flying backwards before McDermott was arrested and brought to Letterkenny Garda Station.

While in the station McDermott, who has 98 previous convictions, continued to abuse officers telling them "I've been here before".

He gave a breath sample which proved positive for alcohol while it was also discovered that McDermott, a father-of-three, was driving without a licence and while disqualified.

Garda Kilcoyne said he did not personally know McDermott but knew who he was and was aware of his past.

The 36-year-old was jailed for seven years for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin in 2009.

McDermott had led gardaí on a 30km pursuit before smashing into a roadblock set up by Garda McLoughlin and his colleague Garda Bernard McLaughlin.

Garda Kilcoyne told the court that McDermott had 98 previous convictions including 52 under the Forgery Act, 17 for road traffic offences including one for dangerous driving causing death and others under the Drugs Act, obstruction of a Garda and using telecoms devices while in prison.

Barrister for McDermott, Mr Garnet Orange SC, put it to Garda Kilcoyne that his client did not intend to drive his car deliberately at him.

'Detection avoidance'

He said his instructions were that McDermott was driving knowing he should not be driving and unexpectedly encountered a checkpoint and "engaged in detection avoidance and accelerated trying to avoid you".

Garda Kilcoyne replied by saying there was ample space on a two lane dual carriageway for the accused to drive around the car which was stopped at the checkpoint.

However, he added that McDermott may have panicked and accelerated.

In relation to the alleged assault when caught, Garda Kilcoyne accepted that McDermott may have been merely trying to get away rather than trying to assault him.

McDermott read out a letter of apology to Garda Kilcoyne and said he simply wanted to now put his past behind him.

He added there was not a day that went past that he does not thing of the crash which killed Garda Paul McLoughlin. He added that while in Castlerea Prison he became addicted to drugs and fled to Dublin upon his release to escape pressure from the media.

He said he began taking coke and drinking heavily while in Dublin as he didn't see a future for himself. He said he now suffers from a medical condition as a result of having a cyst on his brain.

On the night he was stopped by Garda Kilcoyne, he said he made a stupid mistake and was just one mile from his home when the incident occurred.

He said he has now realised that he is at the stage in his life that he needs to turn his life around. Asking for leniency, Mr Orange said his client came from a very respectable family and that on this occasion he was fuelled by drink.

He said that this was more an attempt to escape rather than an attempt to deliberately endanger a Garda. He asked the court to accept McDermott's plea as genuine and said he was a man not without hope.

He suggested to Judge John Aylmer that a structured sentence couched with conditions of rehabilitation to help him remain drug free would help his client.

Judge Aylmer adjourned the case for sentence finalisation.

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