A BALLYMENA man convicted of murdering reputed Coleraine drug dealer, Paddy Fleming, five years ago has succeeded in shaving just two years off his sentence after taking his case to appeal.
Desmond Heaney, who was handed a 22 year jail term back in 2008, will now serve a minimum of 20 years for the fatal stabbing.
The Appeal Court in Belfast, made the ruling after legal representatives for Heaney complained that his sentence was excessive for a crime which lacked premeditation.
Heaney (29), formerly from Dunclug Park in Ballymena, already had 150 convictions under his belt when he took a kitchen knife to Mr. Fleming during a party in Coleraine five years ago.
The 40-year-old father of two died as a result of five stab wounds to his chest after entering a flat at Hazelbank Road in the Heights on May 14, 2006
Even though the dead man was never charged with any drugs related offences, following the murder his estate relinquished assets valued at £750,000.
Land, a house, cash and valuable paintings were all handed over to settle a case with the Assets Recovery Agency, who claimed Mr. Fleming had amassed a fortune from drug dealing.
Speaking at the court, Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan, sitting with Lord Justice Higgins, rejected defence claims that the punishment starting point was too high.
“We accept that the period of time involved was short, but the aggravating factor was his decision to arm himself before putting himself in a position where he could commit the offence,” he said.
He ruled: “We accept that a tariff well in excess of the higher starting point was appropriate in this case, but in light of the element of spontaneity and lack of premeditation we consider that a period of 22 years was manifestly excessive and we substitute it for a period of 20 years.
“To that extent we give leave and allow the appeal.”