Four men guilty of the sectarian murder of a Catholic schoolboy have been given minimum sentences of up to 13 years in jail.
The killing of 15-year-old Michael McIlveen in staunchly loyalist Ballymena in May 2006 quickly became another high-profile test of policing and judicial reform in the North.
Michael, known as Micky Bo, was punched, kicked and beaten with a baseball bat in an alleyway by a group of loyalist youths. He died hours later in hospital.
Earlier this year Aaron Wallace, Christopher Kerr, and Jeffrey Lewis, were found guilty of his murder. At the start of the trial Mervyn Moon also pleaded guilty. All four were from Ballymena and in their early twenties.
This Friday the Judge Mr Justice Treacy sentenced all to life imprisonment at Antrim Crown Court, with terms ranging from 10 years to 13 years.
The highest minimum tariff -- the time to be served before being considered for release -- was handed to Kerr, whom the judge said had shown no remorse for his actions and had lied consistently through the trial.
He said the fact that he had also gone to his grandmother’s house to obtain the baseball bat showed his part in the murder was premeditated.
In a packed court, the judge described the death of Michael as “a brutal and sectarian murder”.
Mr Treacy said a lethal cocktail of drugs, drink, youth and sectarianism provided the context in which the murder took place.
The judge acknowledged the pain the killing had inflicted on the McIlveen family.
“As I have said, Michael was only 15 at the time of his murder and its devastating impact on his entire family has been set out in a moving victim impact statement signed by his mother,” he said.
In her statement to the court, Michael’s mother, Gina, said: “For anyone to have their son taken from them so suddenly is a horrendous experience, but for it to occur in such a violent manner and the public attention that followed, only magnifies it.
“I personally have found Michael’s death extremely difficult to deal with. My health suffered and there are times when I have not been able to cope.
She added: “Michael was a brilliant wee fella and we were very close. He was happy-go-lucky and always had a big smile.
“He is in our thoughts first thing in a morning and last thing at night.”