A Limerick man whose conviction for murder was quashed following an appeal was yesterday sentenced to 11 years, with three suspended, for manslaughter.
Kevin Coughlan, aged 33, with a last address at Avondale Drive, Greystones, Limerick, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Francis Greene at Steamboat Quay in Limerick between November 28 and 29, 2009.
He was found guilty by a jury at the Central Criminal Court and given the mandatory life sentence by Mr Justice Patrick J McCarthy on December 22, 2011.
In June this year, the three-judge Court of Appeal found that Coughlan’s trial had been unsatisfactory. Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the appeal arose out of the then deputy State pathologist Khalid Jaber’s “crucial” evidence in the case.
The defence submitted they were presented with conclusions on the cause of death that had not been notified to them in advance.
The case against Coughlan was that he had forced Mr Greene into the river where he met his death by drowning. “That was the case that was made,” the court heard.
However, Dr Jaber also produced an opinion that Mr Greene had been strangled before he got into the water, the judgment stated.
It was “not satisfactory” this information was given “for the first time in the witness box when the pathologist was giving evidence”, Mr Justice Ryan said.
The case was yesterday before Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy for sentence.
“Mr Anthony Sammon SC, for Coughlan, said in the course of the hearing that the appropriate conviction was manslaughter and accordingly a verdict of manslaughter was substituted by the Court of Appeal,” the judge said.
He said responsibility had been accepted by Coughlan for causing the deceased to be in the River Shannon and to die as a result.
Mr Justice McCarthy told the court the pain caused to Mr Greene’s family was compounded by a lie told by the accused as to the “potential whereabouts of the deceased”.
The judge referred to the victim impact statement read to the court by Patrick McCarthy, prosecuting, last Monday, and said the family had suffered and their lives will never be the same again.
The judge told the court the time of when a plea of guilt is entered is of importance and, in this case, it was not at the time of being charged or before the trial.
“It was what we call five minutes to midnight,” said the judge. “The lateness of the plea in this instance is explicable to the nature of the evidence by Dr Jaber. In effect, what the accused did was plead guilty to something which was inevitable.”
Mr Justice McCarthy said that, having regard to the nature of the crime, the appropriate sentence lies between 10 and 12 years. He said he would afford credit for the plea of guilty to three years.
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