Co Down man who killed cousin fails to have manslaughter sentence reduced

Judge rejects claim John Stanley Foster’s seven-year term was excessive

A Co Down man who beat his second cousin to death has failed in a bid to have his jail sentence reduced.

The Court of Appeal rejected claims that the seven-year term imposed on John Stanley Foster for the manslaughter of David Mills was manifestly excessive.

Although lawyers for the 32-year-old argued that he had acted in self-defence, senior judges pointed out that he landed up to 12 blows to the victim’s head as he lay helpless on the ground.

"Substantial sentences are required to deter individuals from this type of wanton violence and to remind them that if their actions go beyond what they in their drunken condition intended they must face the consequences," said Lord Justice Coghlin.


Mr Mills (47), a former Irish League footballer, died from multiple injuries inflicted during a fight with Foster in the centre of Ballynahinch, Co Down on September 30th, 2012. Both men had been drinking heavily in separate bars, and mutual animosity over a previous incident flared into violence when their paths crossed.

It was accepted the victim, a former Portadown FC player, had goaded his second cousin and started the fight.

Foster, formerly of Corrigs Road in Newcastle, Co Down, had been on trial for murder, but proceedings were halted when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter instead.

He received a seven-year term at Downpatrick Crown Court last January, half to be served in prison and half on supervised licence.

As well as stressing how Foster had initially acted in self-defence, his lawyers said he had stayed at the scene of the fight to put Mr Mills in the recovery position.

Such an action reflected clear remorse and contrition on his part, it was contended.

However, Lord Justice Coghlin, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan and Lord Justice Gillen, identified Foster's violent history, including previous convictions for assault and disorderly behaviour.

“While accepting that the initial blows may have been struck in self-defence, there can be absolutely no doubt in this case but that the applicant did cause substantial violence to the deceased at a time when the deceased was lying prone and helpless in the middle of the road,” he said.

Ruling that Foster received the proper reduction in sentence for his guilty plea and remorse, the judge added: “Deterrent sentences are also required to mark society’s outright rejection of such behaviour and to reflect the inevitable emotional consequences of the loss of a life.”