A man who killed his best friend with one punch after an argument has been jailed, despite the family of the dead man urging the judge to be lenient.
Richard Eveleigh was walking home with Paul Lightowler on 18 May, 2016, after watching Liverpool's Europa Cup Final defeat to Seville at the Echo Arena when they got into an argument in the city centre.
Eveleigh, 63, from Barnston on The Wirral, punched 61-year-old Lightowler once in an incident captured on CCTV which was replayed in court. Lightowler, from Wallassey, fell and cracked his head, losing consciousness. Eveleigh was arrested on suspicion of wounding Mr Lightowler with intent.
However, after Lightowler died in hospital on 27 May, the charge was changed to unlawful killing.
The pair had been close for 45 years and Eveleigh was said to be "devastated" by the death.
The families sat together at Liverpool Magistrates' Court while Mr Lightowler's sister Clare Bowe wrote to Judge Clement Goldstone QC asking him not to jail Eveleigh, saying her brother's death had been an accident and that her son still went to matches with Eveleigh, whom he regarded as an uncle.
Whilst acknowledging the sentiment of the victim's family, Goldstone said on Tuesday (4 October) he had no choice but to impose a custodial sentence. "I bear in mind everything which i have read and been told about you," he told the defendant.
"There has scarcely if ever been a case where the personal mitigation could have been more compelling, but I cannot allow that mitigation whatever its strength to drive me away from my public duty in imposing a significant sentence for the taking away of a life."
Eveleigh was jailed for 28 months, a third less than could have been imposed by the Crown Court, because he had pleaded guilty and halted the need for a trial by jury. Police involved in the case spoke of the dangers of so-called one-punch killings, which - according to Telegraph Australia - have been specifically criminalised in Australia
The Lightowler and Eveleigh families issued a joint statement following sentencing.
"This case is a tragedy for both families. Richard and Paul were the closest of friends for 45 years. Our families were and remain very close. After an argument at the end of a football match Richard struck out at Paul after a disagreement with tragic consequences. Had Paul not passed away we are sure that both men would have got over it and would have been laughing and joking about it a week later.
"As a result of a Paul's untimely death both families have lost a much loved uncle and friend. The court's decision to imprison Richard has meant that, for the time being, our families have lost a father, grandfather and friend," they said, according to the Liverpool Echo.