Thug called judge ‘fat d***head’ after being jailed

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A “callous” 26-year-old jailed for punching and kicking a man to death in an “unprovoked attack” then hurled foul-mouthed abuse at the judge as he was escorted from the dock at Liverpool Crown Court. Jay Byrne, 26, of Leyland Road in Southport, together with brother Joseph Byrne, 25, of no fixed abode, previously pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Christopher Molloy, 55, although both were cleared of murder after a trial.

A 15-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was convicted of murder by the jury after three hours and 41 minutes of deliberation, with all three appearing yesterday for sentencing by Judge Nick Flewitt KC.

As he was led from the courtroom, Jay Byrne, referring to the sentencing discount he received for his guilty plea, said: “Keep your 10 percent you fat d***head”.

Stella Hayden, prosecuting, outlined the facts of the case heard during the trial.

She said that at 1.13am on July 12, 2022, police on patrol in Bootle were flagged down and told about a male lying unconscious on Stanley Road, Bootle.

Paramedics treated the man, who had severe head injuries, but he never fully retained consciousness.

It was subsequently established that Mr Molloy had been in a verbal altercation with the men, and after an initial confrontation, went to a nearby McDonalds, but was refused entry.

At that point Mr Molloy told staff he had been “shoved up” and that there were probably four people after him. Ms Hayden said Mr Molloy then left the McDonalds and assaulted, initially being punched by Joseph Byrne, before being kicked in the head by Jay Byrne and the youth.

Ms Hayden said: “Both the build-up and the violence itself was captured by CCTV footage which was played at the trial. It was an act committed on the streets, an unprovoked attack when Mr Molloy was seeking to walk away”.

Judge Flewitt interjected and said: “What is noticeable is the completely callous behaviour of everybody present, not just those in the dock, but also the several other young people who seemed more interested in going through his possessions than doing anything to help him.”

Despite efforts to save Mr Molloy’s life over the course of a week, he died at 3.50am seven days after the attack.

A victim’s personal statement written by Christopher Molloy Senior, the victim’s dad, was read by the prosecution.

It read: “Christopher was a very good son to me, he was always there for me when I needed him most. I miss him so much. When something happens I always think I will tell Christopher, but then I remember he is no longer with us. Christopher’s passing has made life harder for me as things Christopher would help me with I now have to do which is hard due to my health problems. People say I am handling it well but I have to. I do now feel very lonely and unsure about what the future holds for me. I miss him deeply.”

Joseph Byrne has eight convictions for 12 offences, including battery, criminal damage and racially aggravated offences, all in 2017, and was also convicted of assault in Scotland in 2018.

He previously pleaded guilty to inflicting grievous bodily harm against John McLoughlin and on a separate occasion, inflicting actual bodily harm against Kellsey Freeman, and was sentenced for those offences as well.

Jay Byrne has ten previous convictions for 12 offences, including threatening with a blade in 2019, theft from a dwelling in 2021, and being drunk in charge of a child. He was also subject to a suspended sentence order at the time of this offending. The youth has no previous convictions.

John Jones KC, defending Joseph Byrne, said his client was only involved in one part of the assault. He said: “It is clear that this incident, while an ongoing incident, has several parts, but Joseph Byrne was only involved in the first of those component parts.

“And once he had done what he did, not only did he not have any further involvement with any violence towards Mr Molloy, what the evidence demonstrated quite clearly is that he issued a warning to his co-defendants that Mr Molloy would not be the subject of any further violence.

“With regard to the subsequent violence, namely the youth and Mr Byrne’s return to Mr Molloy and the kicks, Joseph Byrne had no involvement in that. Neither is there any evidence to suggest he knew it was even happening.

“He was on the other side of the street when those kicks, particularly the kick from the youth, occurred.”

Mr Jones conceded that Byrne has a history of violence and was under the influence of alcohol, but said the defence do not agree that he had a leading role.

He added: “He is particularly aware of his actions and consequences to Mr Molloy and his family, and expresses a significant degree of regret and remorse for those actions, not only for the predicament that he finds himself in, but for the loss he acknowledges he has caused to the Molloy family.”

Nneka Akadolu, Jay Byrne’s defence counsel, accepted there was relatively little mitigation for the actual offence, and said Byrne did not instruct her to put forward any excuses for what happened during the early hours of that morning.

She said: “It appears to be common ground why he and his brother decided to stop and interact with those young people that night. Irrespective of what he was told, he knows and accepts that it provides him with no explanation or excuse for what took place.

“He accepts that there is no-one to blame for his actions but himself. Having communicated with him at length during the course of the trial and Mr Nolan having taken instruction from him today, I can say that he regrets playing a part in taking the life of another human being.

“And Your Honour he is remorseful for the immeasurable suffering he has needlessly inflicted on Mr Molloy’s family, particularly his father, and wishes that apology to be extended to his father who he was aware was present in court during these proceedings. He has now come to terms with the fact that he will now be sent to prison for a considerable period of time.”

She added: “Your Honour will no doubt have been unimpressed by some of the behaviour seen in that dock during the trial. I am not instructed to make excuses for that behaviour, I am instructed to apologise.

“Understandably he did find the trial process stressful, exacerbated by lack of sleep, but he acknowledges that provides no justification for instances when the trial was disrupted.”

Ms Akadolu continued: “More than anyone in that dock, Mr Byrne should have empathy for Mr Molloy, having been seriously assaulted himself.”

She detailed that he was the victim of a “very violent assault” that took place in May last year and led to him suffering a traumatic brain injury, and associated medical issues which will continue for the rest of his life.

The defence counsel added: “He knows he should not have been drinking or misusing drugs, and he recognises that upon his release, his relation with alcohol has to change.

“He has expressed a firm commitment to making that change when he eventually is released into the community.”

Peter Finnigan, defending the 15-year-old, said: “He has reflected upon what happened, he is desperately sorry for what happened, he wishes through me to express his sincere apology for what happened that night. He is young, and he should know better and should have behaved better. The behaviour of children can be appalling, but the individual is unformed, and is still childlike in many respects.

“We are all the more aware now that children make bad decisions, they take wrong turns, immaturity causes problems which are sometimes small behavioural problems which can be corrected.

“In other circumstances it leads to this sort of behaviour with consequences that are awful and dreadful for other families as Mr Molloy’s father said in his moving victim personal statement.

“These sorts of events have repercussions on other people and other families, and it would be wrong to minimise what happened that night.”

In sentencing, addressing the 15-year-old, Judge Flewitt said: “I accept that he didn’t intend to kill Christopher Molloy, involvement was not pre-meditated in the sense the assault was not planned in advance. I also accept that the youth was under some pressure from his peers and the adults present to show that he could stand up for and protect his girlfriend.”

He continued: “I understand he has expressed remorse to the probation service. I accept that is what he said but I regret to say I did not see any indication of it during the trial, but I accept that may be because of his age and the lack of understanding of his actions.”

The teenager was sentenced to a life term of imprisonment with a minimum term of eight years.

Addressing Joseph Byrne, he said: “You are a man for whom the use of violence is a first rather than a last resort. Moreover, as this case demonstrates, your use of violence puts others at risk of harm. You are a dangerous offender.”

For inflicting grievous bodily harm against John McLoughlin, Joseph Byrne was given an 18 month sentence, and for inflicting actual bodily harm against Kellsey Freeman, he received a consecutive sentence of 27 months imprisonment.

For the manslaughter of Christopher Molloy, Joseph Byrne was given a custodial sentence of nine years and nine months, plus an extended licence of four years, also to be served consecutively.

Jay Byrne was sentenced to 10 and a half years imprisonment for manslaughter.

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