A man has been jailed for killing an aspiring firefighter in an unprovoked attack at a taxi rank.
Michael McLoughlin, 36, was sentenced to nine years and four months at Liverpool Crown Court on Tuesday for the manslaughter of Duncan Browne, 23.
It comes after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) accepted his guilty plea and decided not to proceed to a murder trial at an earlier hearing.
The incident arose in the early hours, when a group pushed in front of Mr Browne, to get a taxi in Liverpool, following an England match at Euro 2020, the court heard.
Co-defendant Terrence Kerwin, 34 and also a convicted criminal, was jailed for 10 months after admitting assault occasioning actual bodily harm for his part in the attack.
Speaking outside court, Mr Browne’s grandfather John Browne, 72, said the family were unhappy with the decision to drop murder charges against both defendants.
He said: ‘We all feel despair.
‘We are broken as a family.
‘We can’t understand the decision to drop the murder charges.
‘It seems the CPS is more like the criminal protection service.’
Mr Browne, from Kirkby, Merseyside, had been in Liverpool city centre to watch England play in the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 when he became separated from friends on their way home in the early hours of Sunday July 4.
John Benson QC, prosecuting, said the defendants, who had been drinking in the city centre with another man, arrived at a taxi rank on Hanover Street at about 3.30am.
The court heard one of the group said ‘get out of the way, lad’ to Mr Browne as they attempted to board the one cab which was at the taxi rank.
Mr Benson said Kerwin, of no fixed abode, struck Mr Browne with an initial punch and McLoughlin then struck him twice, causing him to fall into the shutter of a shop front and collapse onto the floor.
He said: ‘This, the prosecution say, was an unprovoked and wholly disproportionate reaction to the trivial issue of who was to board the taxi.’
After the attack, the pair got into the taxi and made their way to a party, while Mr Browne was treated by onlookers until paramedics arrived, the court heard.
Mr Browne was taken to hospital but died the following day.
Sentencing, Judge David Aubrey said: ‘This was a wholly unprovoked and gratuitous assault in the city centre against a man who had not been abusive, he had not been confrontational and I am satisfied he had not offered any threat of violence whatsoever.’
The court heard McLoughlin had 16 previous convictions for 31 offences and had been on licence at the time of the attack after being imprisoned for conspiracy to steal in 2019.
Kerwin had 20 previous convictions for 44 offences, but none of them for violent offences.
In a statement which he read to the court, Mr Browne’s grandfather said: ‘This unprovoked cowardly attack has robbed a kind, respectful, compassionate and dynamic young man, who was born three months premature and had to fight to cling on to life, of a lifetime of fulfilment in following his dream of serving his community as a member of the fire brigade.’
In a letter written to the court, McLoughlin, of Torus Road, Liverpool, acknowledged his actions had caused ‘irreversible loss to many people’.
A spokesman for the CPS said: ‘Our thoughts remain with the family of Duncan Browne following his devastating death.
‘Our decision making in this tragic case – as in any other – was based on an assessment of what it might be possible to prove to a court, in accordance with our legal test.’