Monday 14 October 2019

Man gets eight years for one-punch attack that killed dad-of-four at house party after Conor McGregor fight

Chef Graham Tobin has died
Chef Graham Tobin has died

Michael McDonnell

A man (27) has been sentenced to eight years in prison after a 'one-punch' attack that killed a father-of-four at a house party after a Conor McGregor fight last year.

Francis Hughes of 30 Sruth an Iuir, Oram Castleblayney had admitted that he assaulted 41-year old Graham Tobin at that address at about 6am on the morning of Sunday October 7 last year, where those attending a party at the house had been watching a McGregor fight in Las Vegas.

In passing sentence, Judge John Aylmer said that while this was a case that could be described as a single-punch manslaughter, it was an “exceptionally serious one”.

He said the aggravating features included the unprovoked nature of the attack, the severity of the punch that had in itself caused severe fractures to the nose, the dangerous circumstances in which Mr Tobin had been standing on a step above a patio, and the fracture that he sustained to the rear of his skull as a result of being knocked backwards onto the concrete.

The judge also noted the accused’s “expression of satisfaction” at having knocked the man out, and the subsequent failure to seek medical attention for Mr Tobin for about four hours, during which the defendant also prevented others from seeking such attention in order to avoid personal culpability.

Judge Aylmer also referred to the suggestion by Hughes at one point that the injured man could be put in the boot of his own car and dumped.

Even though no medical evidence was given to show that an earlier intervention might have saved Mr Tobin, the judge said it was safe to assume that the delay did not help, and that this had been stated in evidence from Sergeant John Daly as being the view that a number of doctors had expressed.

It was noted too that the accused had 74 previous convictions, which were for offences including public order, drink driving, road traffic breaches, drugs offences, criminal damage and burglary, with only one having been for an assault,

All these aggravating factors placed the case on the upper end of the mid-range of seriousness for manslaughter, thereby meriting a 10-year prison term before taking mitigating factors into account.

Stating that he was obliged to consider these factors also, Judge Aylmer cited the early guilty plea and the defendant’s expressions and letters of remorse and apology.

Mr Hughes had also been making good use of his time in prison to date and participated in an Alternatives to Violence programme.

The judge said he was reducing the sentence to eight years on that basis, and he stipulated that the defendant was to be given credit in that regard for the time he had already spent in custody.

Members of Mr Tobin’s family left the court immediately after sentencing, including his wife, Ramona and sister, Leah, both of whom were visibly upset but opted not to comment on the sentence.

During the hearing of evidence at Monaghan Circuit Court three weeks ago, Judge Aylmer had been told that Mr Tobin never regained consciousness after the incident, and that he died at Beaumont Hospital on 18th October (11 days later) as a result of injuries to the head and brain that included a fractured skull.

That hearing was also told that a female witness who said she saw the actual attack believed it occurred at about 6am. It was not until 9.55am, after this lady had left the house that the ambulance service was called and gardai were alerted.

Sergeant Daly had stated that a number of those at the house had reported that Mr Hughes initially claimed that the injured man was fine, and that he pulled down the blinds, locked the doors and asked people not to call an ambulance while stating, “I'm not going back to jail.”

The victim, Mr Tobin, was described as a 41-year-old married father of four boys aged three to 12, who was a chef by profession and never came to any Garda attention.

His wife Ramona had taken to the stand to read a lengthy and very moving victim impact statement in which she outlined the devastating impact of Graham’s death on his whole family, including their four sons.

During her account she said it was difficult enough to accept that her husband had died from a violent assault, but that this was compounded for his loved ones be the way that he was left lying “for hours” in “a stranger’s house” while critically injured — an action that she believed had clearly impacted on his chances of survival.

“It makes me sick and I will never get over it,” Mrs Tobin said.

The deceased man’s sister Leah also read a statement that further underlined the traumatic effects on her own sister and their parents as a result of the sudden loss of their son and brother.

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