A 23-year-old man who killed his own father during a fist-fight which erupted moments after the two men left the pub they had been drinking in has been jailed for four years.
Stephen Butler told gardaí he did not mean to kill his father John Butler (48) when they clashed on the doorstep of the house they shared in Portlaw, Co Waterford.
“It was just to fight,” he said.
Mr Butler later died of his injures in hospital and his son was arrested and charged in connection with the incident, which took place on the early hours of January 11th, 2020.
Butler, of Sheilbaggin, Ramsgrange, New Ross, Co Wexford, had pleaded not guilty to the murder of Mr Butler (48) but admitted manslaughter at the Central Criminal Court.
Butler had claimed that although he had “repeatedly punched” his father during the fight, he had not intended to kill or cause severe injury.
After a trial lasting eight days in October 2021, the jury accepted Butler’s defence and he was remanded in custody for sentencing on the manslaughter charge.
At Monday's sentence hearing, Mr Justice Paul Burns said the altercation between the two men “could have easily passed off as just another after-hours row”.
“They only had to cross the road to reach their home,” the judge said.
However, as a result of being locked out of the house by the victim, the accused became aggressive and began shouting before delivering “a number of heavy blows” towards his father, one of which proved to be fatal, the judge said.
“The unlawful taking of a life of another is a most grave and serious matter,” Mr Justice Burns continued.
Mr Butler, the judge added, was not the only victim of the accused’s actions.
Butler’s family had been “torn apart”, and his sister, Katilyn – who was 19 at the time of the killing – has now been left without a father, he said.
Ms Butler had previously told the court she was “left with an emptiness that will never be filled” as a result of her brother’s actions, the judge said.
On identifying a headline sentence of seven years, Mr Justice Burns said he was taking into account the lack of premeditation, the fact there was no weapon used in the fatal assault, and the concern the accused showed towards his father when he returned to the scene.
Sentencing Butler to five years’ imprisonment, with the final year suspended for five years, Mr Justice Burns said he was also taking into account the accused’s lack of any previous convictions, his early guilty plea to the manslaughter charge, the cooperation he provided to investigating gardaí, and the “genuine remorse” he has expressed for his actions.