A 22-year-old Sligo man, who attacked an alcoholic former soldier with a bottle, was sentenced today to six years for his manslaughter.
Mark Sweeney, of Finisklin Road, Sligo, had taken ecstasy, cocaine and cannabis and had been drinking with 45-year-old Paul Watters when a fight broke out between the two acquaintances in the early hours of July 27, 2004.
Mr Watters, who had been in the Defence Forces in the 1980s but had since become an alcoholic, and unemployed Sweeney had shared some cans of cider in an alleyway at Stephen Mews, Sligo, the Central Criminal Court heard.
Mr Watters had jokingly told Sweeney he had slept with the younger man’s mother and was in fact his father.
Sweeney, the 14th of 19th children, retaliated by telling Mr Watters he had slept with his daughter and had a child with her.
A fight broke out and Mr Watters slapped Sweeney, the court heard.
In a statement to gardai, Sweeney said he had punched the older man and had hit him with a bottle after Mr Watters had swung it at him.
Once Mr Watters was lying on the ground, he then kicked his head with his heel a number of times.
Sweeney claimed he had asked someone who had heard the commotion to call an ambulance and then left the scene.
Mr Watters was found dead by an architect who worked nearby the next morning.
A post mortem exam by state pathologist, Marie Cassidy, revealed Mr Watters had suffered skull fractures, bruising of the brain and internal bleeding.
In November, a jury took just over two and a half hours to find Sweeney not guilty of the murder of Mr Watters, of Avondale, Sligo, but guilty of manslaughter once a plea of provocation was admitted by Mr Justice Paul Carney.
Defence counsel, Brendan Grehan, said the crime was motiveless on his client’s part and Sweeney, who suffered from alcohol and drug addiction, bitterly regretted what he had done.
Mr Grehan said there were a number of references from neighbours and acquaintances of the family describing him as a well-mannered and nice young man and, apart from one minor conviction for trespass, he had not been in trouble with the law.
“It does appear from both the medical reports and psychological reports and persons who have provided references that this is somebody who is very young, very immature and fairly slow in his thinking capacities,” Mr Grehan said.
Psychological reports put Sweeney in the bottom two per cent of the population in terms of mental capabilities.
Sweeney sat with his head in his hands as a letter was read to the court in Dublin in which he said he was really and truly sorry for what had happened.
Addressing Mr Watters’ mother, who was in court for the sentencing, the letter said: “I can’t bring back your son and I can’t bring back a friend. What I did was wrong and I can’t change the past.
“If I could turn back time, things would be a lot different and maybe your son Paul would be alive.”
Sentencing Sweeney to six years from when he was first arrested on July 29, 2004, Mr Justice Carney said he took into account the accused’s youth, background, absence of previous convictions and the fact that the successful prosecution rested almost entirely on the admissions Sweeney had made himself.
“People of previous good character and good background frequently appear in this court in respect of the most appalling fatal violence of which they have no memory because they have taken a substantial number of pints in combination with cannabis or something of that kind.
“Here we had a person who had a significant consumption of alcohol and combined it with ecstasy, hash and cocaine, leading him into the most appalling, uncharacteristic violence in which he was kicking a friend in the face and causing him the most appalling and fatal injuries,” he said.