'My son's life means nothing' - father's anger over 'lenient' sentence for one-punch killing
- ‘My son’s life means nothing in eyes of law’
- Seamus Bell’s killer given five-year jail term
The father of Seamus Bell, who was killed in a one-punch attack, has said the five-year sentence given to his attacker in January made him feel “my son’s life means nothing” in the eyes of the law.
Father-of-three Seamus (35), from Co Monaghan, had been out celebrating his twin daughters’ christening when convicted rapist Vytautas Racys attacked him in an unprovoked one-punch assault on the main street of Carrickmacross on January 20 last year.
Seamus had been in a pub with family and friends and playing pool when Racys, formerly of The Oak, Loughnaglack, Carrickmacross, tried to take over the game.
Seamus complained to the bar staff and Racys later followed the fitness instructor and his family down the street, lashing out with an uppercut.
Seamus had both hands in his pockets and never stood a chance.
He was in a coma after the assault and died five months later.
Michael Bell Snr hit out at “lenient” sentencing for one-punch assaults, which are not separately categorised from other attacks.
“We were very concerned about the sentencing, it was diabolical,” Mr Bell said. “Racys came along, there was no fight, nothing. He caught up with my son, hit him and killed him.
“This was a convicted rapist and someone who’d committed robbery in Lithuania.
“If he’d have got the seven years discussed in court by the judge, it wouldn’t have made us feel any better, but to take two years off for good behaviour?
“It means Seamus’s life was worth nothing.
“He was a rapist and he killed our son, he got the sentence reduced by pleading guilty but we never saw any remorse.
“This should have been classed as murder. The judge shouldn’t have been allowed to downgrade it further.”
The court heard how Racys had 13 previous convictions, including for rape, sexual assault and robbery in Lithuania.
Countless victims of similar one-punch assaults have had their lives taken, while others have been left with severe disabilities.
However, sentencing is normally at the lower end of the scale.
Judge John Aylmer said there had been a “high degree of recklessness and culpability” as Racys had struck Seamus knowing he would fall without being able to protect himself with his arms.
Due to the scale of the offence, it fell within the range of manslaughter and could have seen a seven-year sentence handed down.
However, Judge Aylmer took mitigating factors into account, including a guilty plea, an apology made in court and an apparent expression of remorse and co-operation.
“He came over to Ireland and killed Seamus and got two years off his sentence,” Mr Bell said.
“He approached the court with an interpreter but we never heard any apology from him.
“We were disgusted with the sentencing.
“The gardai thought it would be a minimum of 10 years.
“The funeral brought Carrickmacross to a standstill. There was even condolences from the president of the GAA.
“For the judge to turn around and give this man this low sentence and two years off...
“My son was a great dad. He carried his two little babies around everywhere. Seamus spent his life helping people, not causing trouble.
“He got a job to be physio for Co Monaghan ladies’ team, he’d worked in the community centre.
“You could ask anyone. Seamus was very highly thought of, far more than we ever imagined.
“My son didn’t realise he was so well thought of, he was just a great fella.”
Mr Bell said he had written to Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan and the Director of Public Prosecutions, but had not been given any hope of further action.
“I know the justice minister can’t bring Seamus back, but if the sentence had been heavier, it would have helped us know this hooligan won’t be walking the streets in the next couple of years,” Mr Bell said.
“Seamus’s partner is still in Carrickmacross and she could be meeting him down the street. It’s not right.”