Judges rule against increasing jail term for fatal Co Down stabbing

Prosecutors failed today in a bid to increase the jail term imposed on a man for a fatal stabbing at a house in Co Down.

Stephen Davison was found dead in his home in Bangor
Stephen Davison was found dead in his home in Bangor

Paul Stephen Bustard, 43, admitted to the manslaughter of Stephen Davidson in the early hours of February 10, 2013.

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) referred the case back to the Court of Appeal in a challenge to his sentence of seven years in prison followed by another four on licence.

But a panel of senior judges ruled that the term was not unduly lenient.

Mr Davidson’s mother had discovered his body in the living room of his Ballyholme Road in Bangor.

The 31-year-old victim died of two stab wounds to the chest that penetrated his heart.

Bustard, originally from Bangor but with an address at Bush Park in Antrim, was arrested in a pub the day after the stabbing.

He told police he had acted in self-defence after Mr Davidson had attacked him.

A previous court was told the pair were together in the lead-up to the stabbing.

Bustard claimed he was attacked with the knife first and hit on the head with a dumbbell by Mr Davidson when they were in his house.

According to his account he then jabbed the victim once in the ribs with the blade, but the Crown contended his version of events was undermined by inconsistencies.

Bustard pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the basis of acting with excessive self-defence.

Appealing the sentence handed down, PPS lawyers identified a series of aggravating features.

They included making no attempt to seek or render medical assistance, and evading police for up to 36 hours.

Reference was also made to Bustard’s history of violence in some of his previous 81 convictions.

However, the three appeal judges headed by Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan also pointed to other mitigating factors.

Bustard acted in self-defence as injuries were inflicted on him, he expressed remorse and entered a guilty plea, they noted.

Sir Declan described manslaughter cases as being among the most difficult sentencing exercises as judge has to perform.

Ruling on whether the jail term was outside the discretionary range available, Sir Declan said: “We cannot conclude the sentence was unduly lenient.

“We can understand there may be some who view it as lenient, but the test is undue leniency.

“In those circumstances it doesn’t seem to us we can interfere with the sentence.”