Belfast Telegraph

One-punch killer is given six months while I have to serve a life sentence, says widow

BY ALLAN PRESTON

The widow of a man killed in a so-called one-punch attack has said she has been left with a "life sentence" after seeing his killer jailed for six months.

Father-of-two James McDonagh, a member of the Travelling community, died in January 2016.

The 28-year-old passed away from injuries sustained after hitting his head on the ground after he was punched once in the face by Finbar McCoy at the car park of the Elk Inn outside Toome, Co Antrim.

McCoy (26), of Tamlaghduff Road, Bellaghy, was ordered to serve six months in prison, with six months suspended.

Speaking outside court yesterday, James McDonagh's wife Christina reacted angrily to the sentencing.

"Where is the justice today? I have to serve a life sentence with my two orphans for the rest of my life, me and my family have to serve it," she said.

Judges are bound by sentencing guidelines and must take into account mitigating circumstances, such as early guilty pleas, co-operation with police and remorse, as well as aggravating factors, such as intent and excessive violence.

Last week, a statement read out in court from the victim's mother, Roseanne McDonagh, said although losing her son was "like having my heart ripped out," she did not want to see Mr McCoy imprisoned.

She had said she "felt sorry for Finbar's mother and father and his family", adding: "I also recognise and respect that Finbar Jnr did a big thing in pleading guilty, I don't want the boy to be punished."

However yesterday, a sister of the victim, Angela Cawley, insisted the family wanted to see a prison sentence issued.

She told reporters outside the court: "My mother's words were twisted badly last week in court, we do want Finbar McCoy to serve jail, he deserves jail.

"He should never ever have got off with this.

"There's no hand of friendship (towards the McCoy family) whatsoever."

Last year, Mr McCoy faced trial, but the jury delivered a hung verdict.

He was due to face trial for a second time - but changed his plea earlier this month to manslaughter.

Both families were separated in court by members of the PSNI's tactical support group yesterday, sitting for almost an hour in silence.

Mrs Justice Keegan noted the great humanity that Roseanne McDonagh had shown in her victim impact statement.

However, as the custodial sentence was confirmed, relatives of Mr McDonagh had to be taken out of court as they shouted, "you're a dead man, you're a dead man" to Mr McCoy.

In explaining her verdict, the judge acknowledged there were "sufficient exceptional circumstances in the case", but the fact remained that it was a one-punch case resulting in a 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," she told the court.

"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."

Further statements from the McDonagh family yesterday described the devastation the death of the young dad had caused.

His widow, Christina McDonagh, 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.

"I have no husband now and my father is helping me and my family.

"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," she added.

Mr McDonagh's other sister Mary said: "I am so relieved that this is over and that we don't have to go through another trial.

"We will never get over Jim's death, but as a family we will try and move forward after the sentencing.

"I am heartbroken and will never get over the loss of my brother Jim."

Belfast Telegraph

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