Two men have today been handed prison sentences for their roles in the killing of Catholic civil servant Paul McCauley.
He was attacked while at a barbecue in the Waterside section of Londonderry, on the city’s eastern bank, in 2006.
He then died in 2015.
Today at Londonderry Crown Court (sitting in Belfast), Lord Justice Colton said Piper John McClements (formerly known as Daryl John Proctor) should ordinarily face a nine year sentence for the murder.
McClements (who was aged just under 16 at the time of the attack) initially denied murder when charged, but changed his plea to guilty in September this year.
However, due to the peculiar nature of the case, his true minimum sentence will be only three years.
Meanwhile the judge also sentenced Matthew Brian Gillon (who was 19 at the time of the attack) to 10 years – half of it on licence – for manslaughter today.
Gillon had denied murder, but admitted manslaughter, GBH, and assault charges.
The background to the tragic case is as follows.
On July 15, 2006, Mr McCauley – plus two other men, Gavin Mullin and Martin Lynch – attended a barbeque and a bonfire at a field adjacent to a friend’s house in Londonderry.
A group of between six and 10 youths suddenly set upon them at about 3.30am that day, according to the detailed written court judgement handed down today.
One of the group ran back to the house and rang 999, and when paramedics arrived they found Mr McCauluey unconscious and having difficulty breathing.
He had irreversible and severe brain damage. He remained, the judgement says, “in a low-level conscious, vegetative state” until June 6, 2015, when he died from pneumonia.
Mr McCauley’s DNA was found on McClements’ shoes.
McClements was charged in 2008 with attempted murder and GBH with intent in relation to Mr McCauley (as well as GBH and attempted GBH in relation to the other attack victims).
He admitted the GBH-related offences, and the charge of attempted murder was left on the books’.
He got 12 years in jail.
In January 2015 he was freed. But after Mr McCauley’s death five months later, he was charged with his murder.
The sentencing report published today quotes a judge decribing the contents of phone calls he made from prison as ranging across “denial, self-pity, admissions, bravado, complaints about the fact that he is taking the ‘rap’ for all the others who were involved and suggestions that he should be paid money by them for doing so” - but that any remorse was “entirely absent”.
The judge described it as an “unprovoked sectarian attack involving an element of pre-meditation”, adding that the attacking gang had been “spoiling for a fight” and had travelled into a Catholic area looking for trouble.
This was “motivated by a desire to administer retribution, as they saw it, for the removal of a flag or the perceived sectarian assault of an acquaintance”.
The fact that they came across Mr McCauley and his friends was a mere “co-incidence”.
The judge said that this case is unique in Northern Irish history.
The fact that McClements had already served a full sentence in relation to the attack by the time his victim died meant he would consider a reduction in the sentence he is to serve for murder.
His judgement says: “The tariff should be reduced by the amount of time the first defendant served in custody as a result of the sentence imposed in 2009 (2190 days, a total of six years).
“This has the effect of reducing the tariff to one of three years.
“The first defendant will also be entitled to credit for the time served since his return to custody on September 19, 2018, the date upon which the life sentence was imposed [a mandatory requirement after he admitted murder].”
After he is released, his licence period lasts effectively all his life.
The judge goes on to add that evidence placing Gillon at the scene was obtained by bugging his car in late 2015.
He said that pre-sentence reports show he “has made efforts through the support of his partner to disassociate himself with those who were present on the evening in question, he has removed himself from the area where he lived at the time, and has found employment and lived a stable lifestyle in the last 12 years”.
Gillon is said to have shown “an element of remorse”, in the pre-sentence report.
However, the judge also said that the recordings taking of him do not show him voicing significant remorse.
He said he is to serve five years in custody, and five years on licence.