Relatives say sentence was ‘unduly lenient’

THE Attorney General is being urged to intervene in the jail sentence imposed on a man for the killing of a reveller outside a Portstewart nightclub.

Lawyers representing the family of victim Trevor Spiers claim the four-year-and-10-month term handed down to Francis McCormick was unduly lenient. They have written to John Larkin QC’s office asking him to consider referring the case back to the Court of Appeal in a bid to get the sentence increased.

Mr Spiers, 28, died after being attacked outside Shenanigans’ nightclub in December 2009. He had gone to the aid of a friend when he was struck.

McCormick, 33, from Queen’s Court in Coleraine, was originally charged with murder but later pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter.

He was sentenced last month to two years and 10 months in prison, followed by another two years on supervised licensed parole.

In the letter to the Attorney General, the Spiers family’s solicitors, Kevin R Winters and Co, claim insufficient weight was given to McCormick’s previous criminal record.

He was already on parole for grievous bodily harm through dangerous driving and had a total of 46 convictions, many involving assaults.

“The record was erroneously referred to as ‘modest’,” the letter claims.

“He had a previous arrest and prosecution for attempted murder which was later reduced to grievous bodily harm and this was dismissed as something of a ‘one-off’.”

It also contends that not enough attention was paid to McCormick’s admission that he kicked Mr Spiers when he was on the ground.

The prosecution had presented the case as a single punch strike, according to the family’s lawyers.

Even on that basis they claimed the prison term was too light.

“The attack on the deceased lasted at least 20 seconds from the prosecution case,” the letter points out.

“However there are witness reports pointing to a more sustained attack.”

It adds: “In the circumstances and without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing we request that you give immediate consideration to the sentencing principles applied by the trial judge with a view to your referring this case to the HM Court of Appeal.”

Solicitor Kevin Winters confirmed the move was being made due to the family’s “deep disappointment” at the jail term handed down.

He said: “They have instructed us to request the Attorney General to intervene and review the sentence as he is entitled to do.”

The Spiers family issued a statement themselves saying they were “appalled and saddened” by the sentence imposed on McCormick.

“As most people would be, we are left astonished as to how a man with 46 criminal convictions, most of which are for violent attacks, can have his criminal record referred to as ‘modest’ by the defence.

“Our submission to the Attorney General is the next step in what could be a long process to uncover the true events of the night of Trevor’s killing and the pursuit of justice in relation to it.”