Anguish over killer’s sentence

Peter Durkin with a picture of his son who was killed. The killer got only a 3 year sentence. November 22nd 2012 E47126N
Peter Durkin with a picture of his son who was killed. The killer got only a 3 year sentence. November 22nd 2012 E47126N

The father of an Eastbourne man who died after being punched at a party has spoken of his anguish after his killer was sentenced to just three years behind bars.

James Harris-Durkin had travelled to Orpington and attended a barbecue with family and friends during the Diamond Jubilee but a fight broke out between the 21-year-old and Liam Smith.

James, a father-of-three, received fatal injuries and was found collapsed by police at around 3.30am the following morning. He was taken to the Royal London Hospital but died of his injuries.

This week Smith, 26, of Thorndon Close, St Paul’s Cray, who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter and perverting the course of justice was jailed for three years.

James’ father Peter Durkin, who lived with his son in Cavendish Avenue, said, “I think it’s a load of rubbish. People go out and commit burglary and receive three years.

“He’ll be walking the streets next year.

“I can’t see how they can come up with a sentence like that.”

Mr Durkin could not face going to the sentencing but his friend Teresa Weir and her family attended. Teresa’s daughter Charlotte White was best friends with James and he spent a lot of time with their family.

Mr Durkin said he had been supported by Teresa, her husband Mike and the family, adding, “My son would do anything for anyone and give them his last penny. I couldn’t fault him.

“With Teresa and Mike I couldn’t wish for a better couple. They treated James like he was one of the family.”

Mrs Weir said she was also disappointed with the three-year jail term, adding, “We were gobsmacked with the sentence.

“He was given four-and-half years with time taken off for the early guilty plea and he also admitted perverting the course of justice. That was an insult to his family as well as to us.

“So the sentence went down to three years and he will serve half on licence and it will take into account the time he spent in custody.

“After the sentencing we had mixed emotions, we were upset, cross and tearful.”

Both Smith and his partner Leanne Turner, 25, told police they left the party before the fight broke out but their lies led to charges of perverting the course of justice and Smith being charged with murder on June 12. A manslaughter plea was later accepted by the prosecution.

Turner received a six month suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service after admitting perverting the course of justice.