A DUBLIN man who beat his best friend to death in a drunken brawl has been sentenced to seven years with the final two suspended.
Paul Rice (26) attacked Keith Mills during an argument in 2008 after they had been drinking together for two days.
Mr Mills was punched and kicked in the head during the assault and was in a coma for ten days before being pronounced dead due to brain injuries.
The court heard that after the killing Rice moved to Belfast to live with his father. He confessed after he was arrested under a European arrest warrant.
A medical report found that Mr Mills suffered a fractured skull and “severe brain injuries” which were consistent with blunt trauma to the head.
A victim impact report was read out on behalf of the family, who were present in court and sobbed throughout.
The court heard that the whole family has suffered since the attack. Mr Mills’s father said he has “lost his son and best mate.”
Mr Mills was described as a “harmless fella” and a “brilliant father” to his young daughter.
“Because of Paul Rice, he only ever got to see her (his daughter's) first birthday,” his mother said. “Paul Rice stood on his head until he was brain dead.”
She described her son as the love of her life and said her life started when he was born, and ended when he died.
Inspector Colm Murphy agreed with Aileen Donnelly SC, defending, that a threat had been made against Rice’s life after the death of his friend, and his mother had received bullets in the post.
Ms Donnelly's address to the court drew a chorus of groans from Mr Mills’s family and two men left the court in anger.
Rice of Clanhugh Road, Donnycarney pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the manslaughter of Mr Mills in Ayrfield on December 22, 2008.
Rice has 17 previous convictions in Ireland and five foreign convictions. These include burglary with intent to steal, assault and possession of a knife.
Judge Margaret Heneghan adjourned the case to later this month so she can consider what date the jail term should be backdated to.
She noted Rice had described Mills as his “best mate whom he had known all his life” and that he claimed he had just “snapped” on the night.
Judge Heneghan offered her “sincerest sympathies to each and every member of Mr Mills's family” and said she had taken into account the victim impact reports before the court.
She described the offence as a “very serious and callous attack” in which a number of blows had been delivered by Rice.
Judge Heneghan said she had taken into account Rice’s early plea of guilty, his genuine remorse, the fact that the killing was not pre-meditated and his eventual co-operation with the gardai. She suspended the final two years of the seven year sentence.