Garda-killer jailed for endangering life of officer at Donegal checkpoint

Martin McDermott (36) was jailed for seven years for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin in 2009
Garda-killer jailed for endangering life of officer at Donegal checkpoint

Stephen Maguire

A convicted Garda killer who forced another officer to jump out of the way of his speeding car to avoid being "crushed" at a checkpoint has been jailed for almost five years.

Martin McDermott almost ran over Garda Michael Kilcoyne during a Covid-19 checkpoint in Co Donegal on the night of April 14th, 2020.

McDermott approached the checkpoint at Raymoghey, Manorcunningham around 10.20pm but accelerated towards Garda Kilcoyne, forcing him to jump out of the way.

He was pursued by gardaí before eventually crashing, but assaulted Garda Kilcoyne by kicking him in the chest after he was found hiding in undergrowth.

McDermott, a 36-year-old father-of-three, appeared at Donegal Circuit Court where he pleaded guilty to a range of charges including endangerment, assault, drink-driving and driving without a licence.

Garda Kilcoyne told the court how he was speaking to another driver at a Covid checkpoint at about 10.20pm when he noticed another vehicle approaching the checkpoint.

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 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 tested positive for alcohol, while it was also discovered that McDermott 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 Garda McLoughlin and his colleague Garda Bernard McLaughlin.

Garda Kilcoyne said McDermott's previous convictions included 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.

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.

Assault

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 think of the crash which killed Garda 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 cocaine and drinking heavily while in Dublin as he did not 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 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.

Sentencing

Sentencing the accused, Judge John Aylmer said the most aggravating factor in the case was that the accused had been jailed previously for the manslaughter of a member of the gardaí.

A further aggravating factor, he noted, was that McDermott was drunk and disqualified while driving.

He said he found it difficult to accept the defence counsel's claim that the endangerment of Garda Kilcoyne was more reckless than intentional, saying there was plenty of room to avoid Garda Kilcoyne on the road.

He said he placed the endangerment charge at the upper end of the scale for such offences and one which merited a sentence of six and a half years before mitigation. The drink-driving charge merited six months, as did the assault on Garda Kilcoyne, Judge Aylmer added.

In mitigation, the judge said there had been an early plea and that he accepted that McDermott is remorseful and has developed some insight into the seriousness of his offending.

He noted he was the "black sheep" of his family who were very law-abiding and who had always supported him in the hope that he would rehabilitate.

Because of this, he reduced the sentence to five and a half years to incentivise McDermott to continue his rehab when released from prison. He also suspended the final nine months of the sentence, meaning he will serve four years and nine months in jail.

The sentence was backdated to February 8th when McDermott entered custody.

Judge Aylmer also disqualified the accused from driving for 15 years.

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