The family of a man who died as a result of a one punch attack yesterday reacted angrily when the man who admitted killing him was jailed for six months.
Relatives of James McDonagh – who died in 2016 as a result of being punched in the face by Finbar McCoy – shouted ‘You’re a dead man, you’re a dead man” at McCoy as the sentence was passed at Belfast Crown Court.
Members of the PSNI’s Tactical Support Group had to usher angry relatives from the court as Mrs Justice Keegan delivered her sentencing.
Mr McDonagh, 28, died from injuries he sustained by falling backwards and hitting his head off the ground after he was punched once in the face by Finbar McCoy Jnr outside the The Elk Inn, Toome, in January 2016. He never regained consciousness.
Last year McCoy, 26, from Tamlaghduff Road in Bellaghy, stood trial, with the jury being hung. He was to go on trial for a second time, but earlier this month changed his plea and admitted unlawful killing.
The judge said yesterday that she acknowledged that there were “sufficient exceptional circumstances in the case’’ which made if fall outside the sentencing guidelines and had been urged by his defence QC Eilis McDermott to suspend any prison sentence.
But Mrs Justice Keegan told the court: “However, this remains what is described as a one punch case resulting in a fatal death. I consider that an immediate custodial sentence is required to reflect the gravity of the offence and in my view the circumstances do not warrant a departure from that principle.
“There also remains the need for a deterrence in all these cases to ensure that this type of offence does not occur again. I therefore decline to suspend that sentence.
“Finbar McCoy I sentence you to 12 months imprisonment, six months will be spent in custody and six months will be spent on licence.”
Following sentencing, Mr McDonagh’s widow Christina said: “Jim’s death has had a huge impact on all our lives. As a member of the travelling community you only marry the once so I will be now a widow for the rest of my life.
“In the travelling community the girls and wives do not generally work, we are there to be a housewife, look after our homes and children whilst the husband works.
“I have no husband now and my father is helping me and my family. In the travelling community the husband’s role is to provide for his wife and family, the husband is there to show his sons how to work and how to make a living and how to set up a home.
“The husband/father buys the sons their first van. Jim is gone and taken from us as a family and my sons James and Patrick will never get the opportunity to have this experience and learning from their father.”
Mr McDonagh’s sister Mary added: “I am so relieved that this is over and that we don’t have to go through another trial. I am heart broken and will never get over the loss of my brother Jim.
“Time doesn’t make it get easier to deal with.”
Detective Chief Inspector Eamonn Corrigan, from PSNI Serious Crime Branch, said: “James – known to everyone as Jim – had been socialising in the Elk Bar on Saturday January 9, 2016. At around 2.25am on the Sunday morning a disturbance involving a number of persons occurred at the bar. The disturbance ended up spilling out onto the main road beside the bar.
“During this incident Jim was punched to the face by McCoy and subsequently fell backwards hitting his head on the ground. Jim was treated in hospital for serious head injuries which he never recovered from.”