An apprentice carpenter who admitted unlawfully killing his friend in a “one punch” assault has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment with the final two years suspended.
Jack Hall Ellis (aged 21) told gardaí he was acting in “drunkenness and anger” when he punched Luke O'Reilly (aged 20) once from behind without warning as they left a pub on Halloween night 2017.
Mr O'Reilly fell and hit his head on the ground, causing traumatic brain injuries which led to his death in hospital two weeks later.
Hall Ellis, of Lismore Road, Crumlin, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to unlawfully killing Mr O'Reilly. Mr O'Reilly was assaulted in the early hours of November 1 at Old Blessington Road, Tallaght and died on November 13, 2017.
In her victim impact statement Luke O'Reilly's mother, Janet O'Brien, paid tribute to her son and described how he had always been there for family and friends and was protective of his siblings.
“He was often described as a gentle giant,” said Ms O'Brien. She said he was thoughtful and always anxious for other people to be happy.
She said the family were “completely broken” by his loss. They think about milestones he will never celebrate and feel his absence at family occasions. “He should be here,” she told Judge Melanie Greally.
Ms O'Brien told the court they had never discussed organ donation due to Luke's young age, but she knew it was something he would do in order to save another family from going through the same loss.
She said she still expects him to walk through the door and wishes for one more hug, that “I know in my shattered heart is never coming.”
Luke's aunt, Karen Lynch, told the court: “People need to realise life is precious and easily lost. They need to think before taking actions they might regret.”
Passing sentence today, Judge Greally said it was clear Mr O'Reilly was a very special young man who was deeply loved by family and friends. She said it was impossible to adequately describe the scale of their loss.
The judge noted such one punch assaults were now a recurring feature of the courts caseload and the court must have particular regard to the principle of general deterrence in sentencing.
Judge Greally set out the aggravating circumstances including that it was an unprovoked assault where Luke was punched from behind with no opportunity to defend himself.
She said that having seen Luke in a motionless condition, Hall Ellis had left the scene and did not present himself to gardaí until it was apparent Luke would not survive.
Judge Greally placed the offence in the low-middle range of offending and set a headline sentence of seven years.
She took into account the mitigating circumstances including Hall Ellis's early plea of guilty, his admissions, an absence of previous convictions for violent conduct, a supportive family and partner, his remorse, work history and testimonials handed into court.
Judge Greally suspended the final two years of the seven-year sentence. She expressed her condolences to Luke's family and said she fully acknowledged the extent of their emotional pain so powerfully expressed to the court.