Latest: Sentencing adjourned on drug deal gone wrong case

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The sentencing of a Kilrea man who admitted the manslaughter of a father-of-one in a drug deal gone wrong was adjourned on Thursday to allow a judge to decide whether the killer is a danger to the public.

Darren Joseph Casey (28) was due to be sentenced for the manslaughter of Owen McKeown at Ballymena Crown Court but the court heard that while the probation board had assessed the killer as dangerous, his defence team have a “body of evidence” which suggests the opposite.

Last June Casey, from Claragh Hill Grange in Kilrea, admitted the manslaughter of 21-year-old Mr McKeown, who was from Dunclug Park in Ballymena, on 5 May 2012.

A charge of possessing a class C drug with intent to supply was not proceeded with.

A previous court heard Mr McKeown had met Casey to buy steroids but following an altercation, he ran across two fields in Kilrea and jumped into the River Bann where he tragically drowned.

Arrested and interviewed, Casey claimed he jumped in after him in a vain attempt to save his life but was unable to get him.

Today defence QC Martin O’Rourke said the “body of evidence” and reports he had which had been compiled on Casey had not been seen by the probation service when they formed their opinion that he posed a dangerous risk to the public.

Remanding Casey back into custody and ordering a further presentence report to be compiled for 4 December, Judge Gordon Kerr QC said the ultimate sentence “is at large” and given the fact that sentencing in manslaughter cases “can vary right from the bottom of the scale all the way to the top,” his opinion of the aspect of dangerousness was “fundamental” in his approach to the case.

Ordering that the defence reports are disclosed to the probation service, the judge warned that he may have to hear oral evidence from experts before he comes to a conclusion, adding that to make a decision now would be “an unsatisfactory state of affairs.”