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'Serious case' Martial arts instructor who killed man in street attack withdraws appeal after court warning

Dargan of Belfry Manor, Citywest, Dublin, had denied the unlawful killing of Mr Mullally. He also denied assault causing harm to Mr Cunningham.

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Jonathan Dargan. Picture: Collins Courts

Jonathan Dargan. Picture: Collins Courts

Jonathan Dargan. Picture: Collins Courts

A martial arts instructor who killed a man out celebrating his retirement has withdrawn his sentence appeal, after a court warned that this was not a ‘one-punch manslaughter’ case.

Jonathan Dargan (50) was last year convicted by a jury of the manslaughter of Patrick Mullally. Dargan attacked the 56-year-old victim and his friend after the two men had stopped to intervene in a drunken row between Dargan and his partner.

Mr Mullally had been out celebrating his retirement from Guinness, when he and Shane Cunningham approached Dargan on the Harold's Cross Road, Dublin, at around 4am on March 6, 2016.

A passing cyclist told the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that Dargan began to throw punches and that the two men put their hands up to shield themselves. At least one punch connected with Mr Mullally, shattering his jaw and cheekbone and knocking him to the ground.

He suffered a subdural haemorrhage and brain trauma due to blunt trauma to the face and head and died the next day. Mr Cunningham was also injured.

Dargan of Belfry Manor, Citywest, Dublin, had denied the unlawful killing of Mr Mullally. He also denied assault causing harm to Mr Cunningham.

A taekwondo instructor, Dargan had worked as a doorman at Lillie's Bordello nightclub for two decades. He admitted “lashing out” with a punch but claimed he was acting in self-defence.

The cyclist testified that he had earlier stopped at the rowing couple and that Dargan had told him to “f**k off and mind his own business” and that “he'd kill him or stamp on his head on the ground”.

He also said that Dargan shouted “bang bang” as he threw “fairly powerful” punches at the men.

Justice Pauline Codd said this was a particularly chilling aspect of the case and evidence of a man who was in control, not in fear.

She noted that Dargan's martial arts training meant he had a knowledge of the force and impact of his own strength and capacity. She said for a man with this strength and capacity to strike a defenceless man was an aggravating factor.

She said the victims were entirely innocent and had approached Dargan to assist a woman and to “do the honourable thing”.

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Judge Codd noted in mitigation that Dargan had no previous convictions and had shown great support and strength to his family when his own mother was the innocent victim of a fatal shooting by a neighbour.

She imposed a six-year prison sentence. She suspended the final six months, noting that the assaults were not prolonged and were impulsive rather than premeditated.

Dargan appealed that sentence to the Court of Appeal today. However, before proceedings began, Court President Justice George Birmingham addressed Dargan’s barrister, Seamus Clarke SC.

He noted that the members of the court had all read the submissions from both sides.

“We think it’s right to say to you that our preliminary view is that it’s certainly not a case that can be described as a one-punch manslaughter, insofar as it has entered the legal lexicon,” he said.

He noted that such cases involved punches that might otherwise have resulted in a bloody nose and a prosecution for common assault, but for the victim’s head hitting the ground.

“We think it’s right to say to you that this is a very serious case,” he added.

Mr Clarke asked if he was indicating that the court could use its powers to both increase and decrease sentences, noting that such a warning is sometimes given.

Justice Birmingham agreed.

“Where there are powers available to the court, it seems justice requires us to warn the appellant,” he said.

Mr Clarke was given time to consult with his client, who decided to withdraw his appeal.

There was no objection from the DPP and the court permitted the withdrawal.

“I think that Mr Dargan has been well advised,” remarked Justice Birmingham, who sat with Justice John Edwards and Justice Aileen Donnelly.

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