Man jailed for killing friend

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The Independent Online

A man who killed his friend with a single blow to the head has been jailed.

Bristol Crown Court heard Stephen Snook floored Alec Farley outside the Queen's Head pub in Nailsea High Street last June.

Sentencing Snook, 46, Judge Neil Ford QC described the case as "desperately sad", where the consequences had been extremely severe in comparison to the action taken.

The court had previously heard that Snook had been caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami, where he had helped save some of those in need.

Mr Farley, 50, hit his head on flagstones after falling over a small step and suffered a fractured skull. He died hours later of a massive brain injury.

Snook, 46, of Load Lane, Weston Zoyland, denied manslaughter but was found guilty by a jury on May 20. He was today sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment.

Judge Ford said: "I am satisfied that you struck once to the head. The blow was a significant blow which made a sound many witnesses heard, but on evidence this was far removed from a full force blow.

"You used a straight hand, it was not a punch that was swung.

"But I do find that blow was to the head of Mr Farley. The effect of that was that Mr Farley fell back, fell over a small step and cracked his head on the ground, the consequence was a fatal brain bleed.

"The real sadness in this case is that you are a hardworking, responsible man. You were a friend of the deceased and had been drinking together the Sunday before.

"You did not mean to cause serious harm to Alec Farley, if indeed to cause any harm.

"This was one blow and the degree of the force was not at the severe end of the spectrum. It was the fall that caused the tragic death."

The court heard the incident happened after England's World Cup group match against Slovenia on June 23, 2010.

Snook had been upstairs at the pub, of which his partner was landlady. He had not been drinking.

He had been called to help deal with an altercation outside, in which he then became involved, grabbing one man before flooring Mr Farley.

Judge Ford added: "This is yet another desperately sad case in which a single blow, and not even a desperately hard blow, has resulted in the tragic loss of life.

"But for the loss of life this would have been a case of common assault. This case is undoubtedly one of those rare cases where it must be categorised as a one-blow manslaughter.

"The effect of the loss of Alec Farley's life has been enormous on his family and friends in the community."

Judge Ford added that Snook had been remorseful and had been "haunted" by the consequences of his action.

He said Mr Farley's death had brought back that tragic incident and the loss of life that had occurred during the ordeal.

"You are plainly not a dangerous offender. You of course did contest this case and were found guilty by a jury. As you contested the case the sentence is 27 months."

Snook was told he will serve half his sentence.

Speaking in Mr Snook's defence, Sarah Regan said: "This is a very sad case. Alec Farley was a friend of Mr Snook and had been for many, many years. There had been no animosity between them.

"Mr Snook had not been drinking. He had not gone looking for violence.

"People have come to realise what happened that night happened in a number of seconds and he had meant no harm."

She added that it had not been the punch which killed Mr Farley, but the fall, and yet Snook must now live with the knowledge that he had caused the death of his friend.

In a statement, Detective Inspector Edward Heath, the senior investigating officer for Avon and Somerset Police, said: "This is a case which the judge rightly described as particularly sad.

"A single blow to the head has resulted in a tragic loss of life. It has been clear from the evidence heard in the trial that this case has had a significant impact on the local community.

"No sentence can be a consolation to the family and friends of Alec Farley following his death. However, today they can take some heart in the fact Stephen Snook has been brought to justice for the incident outside the Queen's Head in June of last year.

"I hope the local community will put this matter behind them and re-build the good relations that existed previously."