Man gets five year jail-term for fatal one-punch attack on fitness instructor

Seamus Bell had been celebrating christening of twins on the day of the attack

Seamus Bell. Photograph: Carrickmacross Lions Club

Seamus Bell. Photograph: Carrickmacross Lions Club

 

A 35-year-old man who caused the death of a Carrickmacross-based fitness instructor in a “one-punch” assault case was sentenced to five years imprisonment at Monaghan Circuit Court on Tuesday.

Vytautas Racys, orginally from Lithuania and with an address at The Oak, Loughnaglack, Carrickmacross, had pleaded guilty to the unlawful killing (manslaughter) of Seamus Bell as a result of the incident at Main Street, Carrickmacross on January 20th, 2018.

In passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer noted this was an unprovoked attack in which the accused had followed Mr Bell on the street for at least five metres before striking him with a right-hand uppercut.

It had been accepted by the defendant that Mr Bell had his hands in his pockets at the time, so the inevitable consequence was that he fell to the ground without the protection of his arms.

There was therefore a high degree of recklessness and culpability on the part of Racys, which meant the matter was in the “mid-range” of manslaughter offences and merited a seven-year custodial sentence.

Judge Aylmer said he had to take mitigating factors into account, which included the accused’s admissions and guilty plea, his co-operation and expressions of remorse and the apology he had given in court.

The judge said he was reducing the sentence to five years on that basis, also giving Racys credit for the time he had already spent in custody.

It had been confirmed during the hearing that Racys had 13 previous convictions in other jurisdictions, including two for rape and one for sexual assault that were recorded at a court in Lithuania in 2006.

Judge Aylmer had been told that the defendant was involved in a verbal dispute with Mr Bell in the nearby in Hughes’s pub a short time before the assault. This had been over who had the right to use the pool table, but Garda Insp Pat O’Connell stated there had been no indication at that stage that the matter could have escalated as it did.

Defence counsel Garnet Orange said it was obvious that Mr Bell was a very decent man who was much loved and a huge loss to his family and the various communities he was involved in. Mr Orange said the defendant was married and had two young children, and had been hoping to start a new life for himself in Ireland.

Mr Bell, who was 35 when the attack occurred, was a well-known sports instructor active in GAA circles in Monaghan and in his native Armagh. He had been celebrating the christening of his four-month-old twin daughters Ava and Cara on the day of the incident.

Members of Mr Bell’s family including his father, sisters and brother, had given harrowing accounts of the impact of his death earlier in the hearing.

His partner, Edel Tighe, said that as a couple they had their whole lives to look forward to and they had been very happy at the christening of their daughters. But now the girls would never know their father, and now she was a 28-year-old single mother who was left only memories.