Published Friday, 25 November 2011
Imposing the indeterminate sentence on Friday, Mr Justice Hart told 53-year-old alcoholic Paul Stockman it would be up to the Parole Commissioners to decide when he should be freed again.
Stockman from Bendigo Street, Belfast, had been charged with murder, but the prosecution accepted his guilty plea to the manslaughter of Patrica Bardon on August 23 last year.
Ms Bardon, a mother of two, was found dead in the south Belfast apartment she had once shared with the defendant at Elm Court, off Donegall Pass in the city.
Mr Justice Hart said that the couple's five-year relationship was characterised by very heavy drinking, and a history of violence on Stockman's part against Ms Bardon.
On the day she died, the pair had planned to marry, but Ms Bardon had second thoughts which sparked a rage in the previously successful competitive swimmer and fitness coach.
Stockman admitted to a probation officer that he "threw her forcefully" to the floor.
Mr Justice Hart said it was agreed by Ciaran Murphy QC for the prosecution and defence QC Terence McDonald that Stockman was to be sentenced on the basis the serious injuries he inflicted "demonstrated that he was completely indifferent to Ms Brandon's well-being, an attitude compounded by his failure to seek medical help for her".
Stockman had initially claimed that Ms Bardon had fallen from the toilet, hitting her head on the floor or metal hand rail, causing the head and neck injuries which led to her untimely death because of his "callous and indifferent" treatment.
Mr Justice Hart added: "Violence in a domestic context is something that sadly is all too common, predominantly (though not exclusively) by men towards their partners who are often materially and emotionally dependent upon them, as well as less able to physically defend themselves.
"Such violence must be regarded as very serious by the courts, particularly when it involves persistent and serious violence."
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