Family distraught at suspended term for musician’s killer

Sentence handed down after manslaughter verdict brought in for one-punch assault

A family broke down in tears after the man convicted of their father’s manslaughter received a suspended sentence for the one-punch assault outside a pub in Co Cork.

The family of musician, Finbarr Lehane (65) from Glen South, Banteer in Co Cork were dismayed when Judge Seán Ó Donnabháin said he believed the appropriate sentence for Jonathan O'Sullivan (29) was three years in jail, which he would suspend in full.

O'Sullivan, from Kanturk but living at Birchfield Park, Goatstown, Dublin, wept after the judge imposed the sentence. He had pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Lehane at the Stand Bar, the Square, Kanturk on October 23rd-24th, 2016. But he was convicted by a jury at Cork Circuit Criminal Court earlier this month by a majority 11-1 decision.

Det Garda Pádraig Reddington told the court today how O’Sullivan had shown some hostility towards Lehane and staff were urging him to leave Mr Lehane alone outside the bar when he suddenly threw a single punch, hitting Mr Lehane in the face and knocking him back so he hit his head off the ground.


Mr Lehane was knocked unconsciousness and taken to Cork University Hospital where he died some two weeks later on November 7th, said Det Garda Reddington, adding that O’Sullivan presented himself at Kanturk Garda station the morning after the assault.

Det Garda Reddington agreed with defence counsel, Mary Rose Gearty SC, that O'Sullivan, a business services engineer working with a firm in Kildare, had expressed remorse over his actions before Mr Lehane died.

O’Sullivan had offered a plea of assault but this was rejected by the jury who opted instead after three hours and 41 minutes of deliberation to convict him of the more serious manslaughter charge.

Mr Lehane's daughter, Catherine Lehane, read out a victim impact statement on behalf of the family in which she told of how their lives had been changed irrevocably by what had happened to their father, whom she described as not "a violent or aggressive man".

Ms Gearty said that O’Sullivan had offered to meet the Lehane family to express his remorse, but they had understandably declined.

The judge noted the victim impact statement but said he disagreed with one aspect: having watched O’Sullivan during the trial he believed he was genuinely remorseful for punching Mr Lehane on that night.

He said the blow in itself was not particularly severe, but it was very sudden and it was the lack of a build-up which resulted in Mr Lehane not getting a chance to prepare himself for the blow which resulted in him being “uptumbled” so that he struck his head off the ground

He noted the medical evidence showed Mr Lehane’s injuries were at the back of his head. But he believed the jury were correct to return a verdict of manslaughter which, as an offence, can range from being just above an accident to just below murder.

Consequently, a range of penalties was available for manslaughter and he believed that in this case the verdict was as important in the sentence. And in the circumstances a fully suspended sentence was appropriate and he suspended the three-year term.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times