By Jessica Magee
A man serving a life sentence for murder has received a two-year sentence after he threatened to slit a prison officer’s throat with a sharpened piece of metal during a routine cell check.
Daniel McDonnell (28), of Brookview Lawn in Tallaght, pleaded guilty to threatening to kill or cause serious harm to a prison officer at Wheatfield Prison, Cloverhill Road, Clondalkin, on August 12, 2021.
McDonnell is currently serving a mandatory life sentence for the murder of 16-year-old Melanie McCarthy McNamara eleven years ago.
The teenage girl was shot in the head as she sat in a car with two others at Brookview Way in Tallaght on February 8, 2012.
At a hearing last week, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the prison officer was carrying out checks and observations on a number of prisoners on the day in 2021.
Garda Mark Grant told Emmet Nolan BL, prosecuting, that the officer saw the accused carving into the viewing glass of his cell with a sharpened piece of metal.
When asked what he was going, McDonnell replied: “I’m cutting through both sides of the glass so I can spray piss and shit at whoever scumbag officer that comes near the door.”
The court heard that the officer closed the hatch and left for a few minutes in the hopes that McDonnell would calm down.
However, when the officer returned and opened the hatch again, McDonnell held up the sharpened metal and said: “See this? I’ll slit your throat with this. If I can’t do it, I’ll get someone on the outside to do it. I can get that sorted,” he added.
The prison officer reported the matter and said he was shocked, worried and concerned over the threat made to him.
McDonnell was arrested the following January and accepted that he had been “sharpening up a shiv” and had told the prison officer to go away.
McDonnell told gardaí that he “snapped” when the officer said something derogatory about his sentence and responded by calling him a scumbag. “I probably did say I would stab him to death. I really can’t remember; there’s something wrong with my memory,” he said.
McDonnell has 36 previous convictions, including two threats to kill in 2020 and the 2012 murder.
Gda Grant agreed with Sarah Jane O’Callaghan BL, defending, that the accused had totally apologised for his remarks and his behaviour towards the prison officer.
Counsel told the court her client said the word “knacker” had been used towards him when derogatory remarks were made about this previous conviction.
The court heard that McDonnell’s friends had been killed in a car crash the previous week and that a “congratulations” card had been put under his cell door.
Ms O’Callaghan said her client fully accepts his guilt in relation to the murder of an innocent girl in 2012 and is extremely remorseful.
McDonnell was aged 17 at the time he carried out the murder, the court heard.
Counsel said McDonnell has experienced difficulties within the prison system and has also suffered significant mental health issues.
He spent a number of years in solitary confinement and had self-harmed so seriously on one occasion that he required immediate hospitalisation and surgery to his neck, the court heard.
Ms O’Callaghan said McDonnell was a “vulnerable prisoner” but is now receiving psychological and psychiatric help and is in a much better place than when he came into prison.
She said McDonnell was very sorry and knew that the officer was just doing his job.
Judge Orla Crowe noted that the threats made by McDonnell were not “idle threats” and that the officer had been shocked and worried, although he had declined to make a victim impact statement.
The judge also noted that McDonnell had been issued with a P19 disciplinary report. Judge Crowe said the prison officer had only been doing his duty and that she wished to mark the seriousness of the offence.
She set a headline sentence of three years but reduced this to two years and backdated it to May 2 this year, when McDonnell pleaded guilty.
The judge noted that McDonnell has good family support and finds custody difficult.