Armed robber Diarmuid McKernan granted bail to say goodbye to dying cousin

Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast.
Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast.

A Crown Court judge today granted compassionate bail to a self-confessed armed robber to enable him to say goodbye to his dying cousin.

The bail application was made in Belfast Crown Court on behalf of 30-year old Diarmuid McKernan, who is due to be sentenced on Thursday for an armed robbery at a petrol station on the city’s Lanark Way last October.

McKernan, from Violet Street in Belfast, made the application to be released from custody to visit his cousin in hospital, who has cancer.

When the application was brought before Judge David McFarland, prosecutor Rosemary Walsh said the Crown was objecting to McKernan’s release. She revealed that McKernan is due to be sentenced on Thursday for what she described as a “very very serious matter.”

Ms Walsh told the court McKernan pleaded guilty at arraignment to the incident, during which he entered the premises armed with a shotgun and ordered two female till operators to hand over money. She added that McKernan “was on licence at the time of the robbery.”

Regarding McKernan’s cousin’s health, Ms Walsh said the Crown had a medical report from the end of July but did not have an updated report. She also said compassonate bail was usually only granted in exceptional circumstances, and questioned the nature of the relationship between the two men.

McKernan’s barrister Neil Fox said the two men had spent time in jail together, adding they were “not simply cousins” but were “effectively reared as brothers” as McKernan’s cousin was brought up in their grandmother’s house.

Stressing that time was of the essence due to the nature of his client’s cousin’s illness, Mr Fox said there was “no chance of any treatment ... it’s now just a case of easing his pain.” The barrister added the bail application was to enable McKernan to “say goodbye” to his cousin before he is sentenced for the armed robbery.

After hearing submissions from both the Crown and the defence, Judge McFarland said “in this case, I am going to grant bail.” The Judge agreed that McKernan could be released from Maghaberry for several hours tomorrow afternoon and could visit his cousin in hospital before being returned to prison at 5pm.