Two barmen charged with manslaughter after a customer downed a cocktail of shots have been found not guilty on the judge’s orders.
Bar manager Gary Wright and barman Aidan Dalton had denied responsibility for the death of Graham Parish in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on June 30, 2008.
The British father of two, from Calder Terrace in Lomeshaye village near Nelson, east Lancashire, was celebrating his 26th birthday when he drank a lethal mix of at least eight shots in one glass.
Judge Thomas Teehan, at Nenagh Circuit Court, said no jury could safely bring in a verdict of guilty on either of the accused.
Family and friends of both the barmen and Mr Parish wept in court as the case was dramatically withdrawn.
Judge Teehan told the jury the men had a duty of care to Mr Parish, had breached that duty of care and their negligence was gross.
But he found that negligence was not the cause of the victim’s death. Referring to Mr Parish downing the drink, he said the courts place a high importance on individual responsibility.
“A decision was taken by Mr Parish, even after Mr Dalton and Mr Wright came to the conclusion that the drink should be served,” said Judge Teehan.
“He then took the decision to consume that drink and that was a supervening event to break the chain of causation.”
Mr Parish's parents David and Julie and his sister Jess said they hoped he had not died in vain.
In a statement, the family said the young father of two was a sociable person and a doting parent.
“On the night of his death, he was celebrating both his birthday and the recent birth of his son,” they said.
Since becoming a father, he rarely drank and had restructured his work to spend more time with his family.
“Unfortunately, this rare opportunity to ’let his hair down’ resulted in his death and left his young family fatherless.”
They paid tribute to the qualified design engineer, describing him as a wonderful, kind and loving person who is sorely missed.
“We realise we are not the only family that has been affected by this case and that it has impacted and had repercussions for other families too,” they added.
“We hope this case will highlight the dangers of drink and if it can prevent any more deaths, we feel Graham’s death was not in vain.”
The landmark case was the first of its kind under liquor liability laws.
If convicted, Mr Wright, 34, and Mr Dalton, 28, who are both from Kilfithmone, Borrisoleigh, in Co Tipperary, faced up to life in jail.
Outside the courthouse, their solicitor JJ Fitzgerald said the pair – who still work at the Hayes Hotel – were “much relieved”.
In a brief statement, he said: “Gary Wright and Aidan Dalton would firstly like to extend their sympathies to the Parish family on the tragic loss of Graham Parish.
“It has been a difficult time for all concerned.
“After a six-day trial, the presiding judge directed the case be withdrawn from the jury.
“This has been a stressful time on both men’s lives and they are happy this has been brought to a close.”
Mr Parish drank himself to death after being out with five British contractors in the hotel bar who were working in a meat processing plant in the area.
The court heard he consumed about nine pints of lager and Guinness, including downing two pints with shots of vodka in them without his knowledge, before knocking back the cocktail of shots.
It is understood double shots of Baileys, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels and gin were in the glass.
Both Mr Wright and Mr Dalton said they believed the drink would be shared with his friends and they would never have served it to just one person.
Within minutes of drinking the mix, Mr Parish, who was 6ft 3ins tall, slumped off his bar stool and four friends who tried to carry him to bed left him on the floor of a conference room, where he died of acute alcohol poisoning.
His dead body was found by a night porter shortly after 6am the following day.
Judge Teehan said the barmen seemed decent and honourable.
But he said the court could not forgot there has been a death and extended his sympathy to the Parish family.