Belfast Telegraph

For sake of victims and their families it’s time for the law to clearly show that a single punch is still one punch too many

Editor's Viewpoint

There is clearly a strong difference of opinion within the wider family of the late James McDonagh who died in 2016 after a ‘one-punch’ attack by Finbar McCoy in an incident near Toome.

McCoy, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, was ordered to serve six months in prison, with six months suspended, but some members of the victim’s family protested strongly at the sentence.

Last week the victim’s mother, Roseanne McDonagh, made it clear in a statement that she did not want to see McCoy imprisoned and that she felt sorry for him and his family.

However Mr McDonagh’s widow Christina said after the verdict “where is the justice today?”, while his sister Angela Cawley said: “He should never ever have got off with this, there’s no hand of friendship (towards the McCoy family) whatsoever.”

Mrs Justice Keegan noted the humanity shown by Roseanne McDonagh in her victim impact statement, but the judge underlined that it was a ‘one-punch case’ resulting in death and that a custodial sentence was required.

There is a considerable complexity involving these one-punch attacks. Even though they can cause immense damage, and even death, they are not regarded like an attack which involves a number of blows.

There may be a tendency for people to accept that a one-punch attack, by its very nature, is somehow less serious than a frenzied attack.

Perhaps it is time for the law to take a closer look at the whole situation surrounding a one-punch attack and to make it clear that a single punch is always one punch too many.

There should be a zero tolerance approach to violence of any kind, including a single punch attack, as a deterrent to all those tempted to settle their differences in the worst possible way.

All these situations are very difficult to deal with, in and out of court, but what is clear is the degree of family suffering following an incident which will haunt all concerned for the rest of their lives.

Belfast Telegraph

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