A man who killed another man in a one punch assault outside a hotel has been handed a four and a half year prison sentence.
Vincent Kelly (45) died from serious head injuries after he was punched once by Paul O'Carroll (47) outside the Royal Hotel, Bray, Co Wicklow, in the early hours of June 9th, 2018.
O'Carroll of St Peter's Place, Bray was found guilty of the unlawful killing of Mr Kelly following a trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in May this year.
The court heard that on the night in question, O'Carroll took Mr Kelly's drink and left it outside of the hotel.
Mr Kelly followed shortly afterwards to get his drink back and O'Carroll then struck Mr Kelly once, causing the victim to fall to the ground.
O'Carroll told gardaí that he had felt under threat and struck pre-emptively in self-defence because Mr Kelly was acting irrationally, but this was rejected by the jury.
Imposing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday, Judge Orla Crowe said O'Carroll bears a high degree of moral culpability for his actions. She said this was a “one punch assault” which resulted in the death of the “unfortunate Mr Kelly”.
Judge Crowe said Mr Kelly may have been intoxicated and “his company may have been less than welcome” but O'Carroll could have left if he found the victim's company “so objectionable”.
Judge Crowe said O'Carroll could have left Mr Kelly's drink in the lobby, but instead he brought it outside and Mr Kelly followed to retrieve it.
She handed O'Carroll a five-year sentence with the final six months suspended on strict conditions.
Detective Sergeant Eamonn O'Neill of Bray Garda Station told the earlier sentence hearing Mr Kelly, who lived in Newtownmountkennedy, was staying at the Royal Hotel in Bray at the time.
He went to the hotel bar at 9pm on June 8, 2019 where he was seen drinking, later joining other patrons. When the bar closed, the remaining patrons, including Mr Kelly, moved to the lobby.
O'Carroll was finishing a drink with another individual.
Det Sgt O'Neill agreed with Garnet Orange SC, prosecuting, that Mr Kelly's behaviour appeared to be annoying some people in the lobby. O'Carroll's companion took Mr Kelly's drink and moved it to another table.
Mr Kelly retrieved his drink and went back to the group. O'Carroll then took Mr Kelly's pint, and walked out of the hotel. He left the drink on a surface outside.
Mr Kelly followed shortly afterwards to retrieve his drink and O'Carroll then struck Mr Kelly once in the face. Mr Kelly fell back and sustained catastrophic injuries to his head.
O'Carroll immediately went to help the victim and others also assisted Mr Kelly until the emergency services arrived. CCTV footage did not show Mr Kelly raising his hands to defend himself or strike O'Carroll.
Mr Kelly was taken to St Vincent's Hospital then transferred to Beaumont Hospital. He later suffered a heart attack and died in the early hours of June 10th, 2018.
Former deputy state pathologist Dr Michael Curtis gave evidence during the trial that Mr Kelly died as a result of the head injury.
O'Carroll left the scene before gardaí arrived, but made a voluntary statement at Bray Garda Station the following day with his solicitor present. O'Carroll has 21 previous convictions, including nine for possession of drugs and one for assault.
Mr O'Higgins said this was an “unforeseen and spontaneous act of violence”. The punch used “moderate force” and would not generally lead to death, Mr O'Higgins said.
However, the blow led to consequences which would not be expected from similar incidents where a person is struck once on the face, he said.
Mr O'Higgins said this was not a crime of intention, but the punch had caused the victim, who had been drinking, to fall to the ground. Mr O'Higgins said O'Carroll's immediate attempts to help indicated that he had not acted out of rage.
While O'Carroll was culpable for striking the victim, the circumstances which lead to the confrontation were not of his making, Mr O'Higgins said, adding that it was a moment of “bad judgement”.
Judge Crowe noted that victim impact statements from Mr Kelly's family showed the “heartbreak and devastation” suffered in the wake of his death. The statements also showed him to be a man who was “greatly loved and cherished”.
She noted the aggravating factors include O'Carroll's previous convictions, including for assault in 1999. Judge Crowe noted that O'Carroll also fully contested the trial, though some concessions were made in relation to the evidence.
She set a headline sentence of seven years.
Judge Crowe noted O'Carroll's expressions of remorse and his community work.