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Two other fatal-crash convicts have absconded from open jail

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed that there are two other prisoners in homicide-related cases at large after walking free from 'open prisons'.

In the wake of the controversy surrounding Donegal man Martin McDermott, who walked free from a low-security prison last month, Mr Shatter has stated that there are two other prisoners serving sentences for homicide offences now unlawfully at large. Their identities have not been revealed.

Last month, controversy erupted after McDermott (26) -- who was serving a seven-year sentence for the manslaughter of Garda Gary McLoughlin -- simply walked out of Loughan prison in Co Cavan.

After he escaped, McDermott was apprehended by the PSNI in Derry and is currently in custody in the North serving a four-month sentence for assaulting a PSNI officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage.

He will be subject to a European Arrest Warrant to secure his return to Ireland.

In a written Dail response to Fianna Fail justice spokesman Dara Calleary, Mr Shatter confirmed there were two other 'homicide' prisoners at large having absconded from an open centre.

He said the "two prisoners were serving sentences for dangerous driving causing death and have been unlawfully at large since November 24, 2004, and June 14, 2010, respectively".

Last night Mr Calleary said he intended to find out from the minister if the victims' families in the two other cases had been informed of the situation, adding that it would be "completely wrong if they have not been".

Mr Calleary also said it was wrong that prisoners who had caused loss of life should be in an open prison.

He added that it was "vital that at all times victims' families are notified of where the prisoner is. A victim's family must at the centre of the process."

In his reply, Mr Shatter didn't provide details as to what open prisons the two escaped from or how long each had left in their sentence.

Voluntarily

He said that he had "been informed by the Irish Prison Service that it is not possible to provide specific information on the number of prisoners convicted of homicide offences who have absconded from open centres and who have returned voluntarily or were returned".

An Irish Prison Service report into McDermott absconding revealed that he had previously escaped from Loughan house in 2007 while in custody for a previous offence.

McDermott had led gardai on a high-speed chase before crashing into Gda McLoughlin's patrol car, killing him.

On the general issue, Mr Shatter in his Dail response added: "Those (prisoners) convicted of offences resulting in the loss of life are not precluded for consideration and have frequently been transferred to open centres in the past. In some cases, these prisoners were serving life sentences."

Irish Independent