Saturday 20 January 2018

Drunk driver who killed garda gets seven years in jail

Stephen Maguire

A man who led detectives on a 30km pursuit before crashing into another patrol car and killing a young garda was jailed for seven years yesterday.

Martin McDermott (25) was found guilty of the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin in Co Donegal in December 2009.

McDermott, of Castlegrove, Raphoe, was also found guilty of the reckless endangerment of Garda Bernard McLaughlin.

He had previously pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, drink-driving, driving without insurance and driving while disqualified.

The jury was later told that McDermott had been in custody for the past year and a half.

The jury of eight women and four men took just under two hours to return their verdict. McDermott showed no emotion as guilty verdicts were read out by the jury foreman.

His mother and other relatives broke down in tears.

Some of the late Gda McLoughlin's relatives, who travelled from their hometown of Fenagh in Co Leitrim, also broke down in tears.

The dead garda's brother, Enda, told the court that his family's lives had been changed forever because of his death.

"Gary is in our thoughts every hour of every day. We got a phonecall nobody wants to hear at 3am. Our hearts would be broken and our lives changed forever," he said.

He revealed how his father, Noel, got angry when people described Gary's death as an accident and was still having trouble accepting his youngest son's death.

Fighting back tears at Letterkenny Circuit Court, Enda said the family thought he might pull through even though he was only given a 5pc chance.

"When that increased to 15pc we felt elated but we were soon punched in the stomach," he said.

He described his brother as an ordinary, happy young man who loved his job and loved to do magic tricks for his nieces such as pulling coins out of their ears.

The trial, which lasted three days, heard how detectives first spotted McDermott speeding out of The Grove petrol station in Bridgend after 1.20am on December 13, 2009.

Injuries

They followed him and a chase ensued for more than 30km, with McDermott reaching speeds of up to 180kmh. It ended when McDermott smashed head-on into a marked patrol car at Lisfannon, Burt.

Garda Gary McLoughlin (24) the driver of the patrol car, died the next day as a result of his injuries in hospital.

Prosecuting barrister Alex Owens said that McDermott's average speed during the pursuit across Donegal was 150kmh or 93mph.

"That speaks for itself what was going on. He was driving after he had been drinking and while he was disqualified from driving," he said.

Judge John O'Hagan said the fact that Gary McLoughlin was a garda should not influence the verdict. After McDermott was found guilty of both charges, the judge was told he had 91 previous convictions -- many of which were for traffic offences including drink driving as well as burglary and forgery.

He sentenced McDermott to eight years in prison for manslaughter, suspending the final year. He sentenced him to five years for the reckless endangerment to Gda McLaughlin.

On the dangerous driving causing death charge which McDermott pleaded guilty to, he was sentenced to five years and disqualified from driving for 20 years.

He received a further six months for drink driving, another six months for having no insurance and another six-month sentence for driving while disqualified.

All sentences are to run concurrently.

The judge said that he wanted to send out a message to all young drivers about their consequences of their actions.

Irish Independent

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