22 Sep 2014

Dunedin man jailed for bar killing

6:06 pm on 22 September 2014

A Dunedin demolition worker has been jailed for five years for killing a man in an Octagon bar in April.

Stephen Fernyhough, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the death of Ryan Court, 35, at the Craft Bar.

Stephen Fernyhough at sentencing this morning in High Court in Dunedin.

Stephen Fernyhough at sentencing this morning in High Court in Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

During a dispute in the bathroom, Fernyhough put Mr Court in a choker hold from behind, knocking him out.

Mr Court could not be revived.

In the High Court in Dunedin, Justice Gendall revealed Fernyhough already has 76 convictions, and a history of violence, intimidation and burglary.

Justice Gendall said Mr Court was rendered unconscious within a few seconds, yet Fernyhough hung on for 20 to 40 seconds. He said the death was similar to a one punch manslaughter case, and the starting point for a sentence should be six years.

But he revealed Fernyhough already had 76 convictions and a history of violence, intimidation and dishonesty, and was on remand at the time of the death, and added nine months.

The judge then discounted the sentence by a quarter for an early guilty plea and for showing remorse, giving a final sentence of five years in prison, with no minimum jail period.

During the hearing there was an angry exchange between Fernyhough and members of Mr Court's family and friends.

Fernyhough's lawyer, John Westgate, told the judge his client had never meant to kill Mr Court and no one was more shocked than his client that Mr Court had died.

The lawyer said Mr Court was 50 kilograms heavier than Fernyhough and he was fighting to get away from the victim.

That prompted angry shouts from the public gallery. Fernyhough snapped back saying "Shut up, you weren't there".