Pair jailed for eight years for sectarian murder of Derry man Paul McCauley
Two men will spend a minimum of eight years in jail for the the roles they played in the "pointless and tragic" death of Londonderry man Paul McCauley.
Piper John McClements (28) will spend a minimum of three years in jail for murder, while 31-year old Matthew Brian Gillon was handed a ten-year sentence for manslaughter with half the term to be spent in prison.
The 38-year old civil servant was attacked by a gang of up to 10 loyalists whilst attending a barbecue at a friend's house in the Chapel Road area of Derry in July 2005.
He suffered catastrophic head injuries in the unprovoked sectarian attack, and passed away at Longfield Nursing Home in Eglinton in 2015 after spending nine years in a persistent vegetative state.
During Friday's sentencing at Londonderry Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, Mr Justice Colton branded the assault on Mr McCauley and two of his friends as "a brutal and unprovoked attack by a large number of males".
The Judge also branded the sentencing as "unique", as McClements, from The Fountain in Derry, has already served a sentence for the same incident.
He was given a 13-year sentence in February 2009 for causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Mr McCauley, which Mr Justice Colton said he took into consideration when sentencing him again, this time for murder.
Both McClements and Gillon pleaded on the grounds of joint enterprise, and it was accepted by the Crown that it couldn't be determined who in the gang of between six and 10 men caused the fatal blow.
While McClements will serve a minimum of three years in jail before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission, Gillon will spend five years in jail, followed by a further five years on supervised licence when he is released.
Also injured in the incident were Mr McCauley's two friends, one of whom has Muscular Dystrophy and who sustained a broken jaw.
Citing the father of one's death as "a pointless and tragic loss of life", Mr Justice Colton said offences of "wanton violence upon young males are becoming prevalent", adding such "shocking incidents of gratuitous violence are all to common in the courts".
A previous hearing was told that hours before the attack, there was a sectarian incident in the Nelson Drive area against a Protestant, and that around six to 10 people travelled from the Fountain for retribution.
The gang's plan was initially to travel to the Waterside and remove a Tricolour from outside the lamppost of a bar on the Old Strabane Road. However, at around 3.30am the gang came across McCauley and his friends - who were having a barbecue and bonfire in the garden of a house at Chapel Road.
Those at Chapel Road heard the sound of running before they were attacked by a group of people, mostly in their mid teens. Mr McCauley was seen "wandering round looking disorientated" and bleeding heavily from his nose" in the aftermath of the rapid yet fatal assault, before he was put in the recovery position and rushed to Altnagelvin Hospital.
Despite medical intervention and after a period in hospital, he was subsequently transferred to a care home, where he passed away surrounded by family on June 6, 2015.
Mr Justice Colton paid tribute to the McCauley family for their "devotion, commitment and fortitude", and noted the devastating impact the death has had on his friends and family, including his teenage daughter.
The Judge said: "The impact of Paul's death will resonate with his family and friends for the rest of their lives. I recognise that the loss of Paul's life cannot be measured by the length of a prison sentence.
"There is no term of imprisonment that I can impose that will cure the anguish and loss suffered."
Speaking outside the court following today's sentencing, Paul McCauley's father James said: "The family would like to thank the police investigation team under the leadership of DCI Michael Harvey for their expertise and commitment in bringing this episode to a successful conclusion.
"It was a crime of the utmost cruelty and this could only be fully understood by those closely involved.
"I acknowledge the support of the family and the hospital care professionals who worked tirelessly with Paul for the nine years up until his death.
"We respect the judge's summary and sentence. Unfortunately, laws here tend towards lesser sentences than those in the rest of the UK."
Mr McCauley said he was "disappointed'' at the sentences handed down today but said it went down to the law in Northern Ireland relating to attacks to the head.
The father was asked if Gillon's 10 year sentence - five to be spent in custody and the remaining five on supervised licence on his release from jail - had "compounded'' the family's suffering as it was less than half the time his son had spent in a vegetative state following the sectarian attack.
He said: "It adds to it but at the same time these people have been caught. The police were met with a total wall of silence and to get these prosecutions is great."
Asked if he hoped others involved in the attack would be brought before the courts, Mr McCauley said: "That is a police matter but they have made it quite clear that the chase is still on so obviously they have leads to work on.
"It would be nice to see everyone involved brought to book. It is important for society that they are caught and can't do it again," he added.
Police welcomed the sentences handed down by the judge.
“Paul was 29 years old when he was the innocent victim of this unprovoked sectarian assault from which he never regained consciousness. He was a much loved friend and family member who volunteered in his local community and his life was brought to a brutal end for no logical reason," Detective Chief Inspector, Michael Harvey said.
“I hope today’s sentencing provides some measure of comfort to Paul’s family. Piper John McClements and Matthew Gillon carried out this despicable act of violence which ultimately took Paul’s life and caused complete devastation to his loved ones."
Belfast Telegraph Digital