Published Friday, 24 January 2014
Prosecuting QC Frank O'Donoghue made the submission at Downpatrick Crown Court on Friday, where 31-year-old John Stanley Foster was due to be sentenced for the manslaughter of former Irish League footballer David Mills, his second cousin.
However, judge Mr Justice Burgess adjourned passing final sentence until Tuesday but warned Foster, despite being released on bail, that it was to allow him "to put your affairs in order" as he faced an "inevitable" jail sentence.
Foster, from the Corrigs Road in Newcastle, had been on trial for Mr Mills' murder, but the trial was dramatically halted mid-way through when he pleaded guilty to his manslaughter on 30 September, 2012.
The jury had heard how Mr Mills, who was 47, was left with multiple and fatal head injuries including fractures to his neck and jaw when the pair came to blows on Ballynahinch's Main Street.
On Friday, Mr O'Donoghue described the fight as a "combustion of emotion".
He told the court that Foster's guilty plea to the lesser charge was accepted because "there is a reasonable possibility that the fatal blows were administered at a time when the necessary specific intent had not been formed by the defendant".
It was accepted, said the lawyer, that Mr Mills himself had been the initial aggressor and that at least some of the approximately 13 punches struck by Foster had been in self defence, but he added that many of them were delivered when the victim was not in a position to defend himself.
Mr O'Donoghue revealed that Foster had a record for public violence with convictions for disorderly behaviour and assaults dating back to his teenage years, submitting that he showed a "propensity towards violence".
Defence QC James Gallagher said Foster had always been willing to plead to his relative's manslaughter "if he had had the opportunity to do so," adding that the fatal attack was not premeditated.
He said there were further mitigating factors in that immediately afterwards, Foster had tended to his stricken victim and has shown "very strong remorse".
The lawyer said that since the incident, the father of four had "reflected on his life" and had stopped drinking to excess.
Mr Justice Burgess adjourned passing sentence until Tuesday.
© UTV News