A COUNTY Durham man is facing eight years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter.

Nathan Robbie Buckland, from Newton Aycliffe, was found guilty of killing Iain Lee following a trial at Newcastle Crown Court.

Mr Lee, 31, suffered a catastrophic head injury after he was punched to the ground in a bus stop in Stephenson Way, Newton Aycliffe, near The Roundhouse pub, in the early hours of September 8.

Statements by Mr Lee's parents Diane and Ian Lee, and his sister Alexa, who have been present throughout the trial, were given to the judge.

Toby Hedworth, QC, prosecuting, said they described a "close family" which had been devastated by the events of that night.

He added: "He is a very, very much loved son and brother."

Judge Christopher Butcher, addressing the defendant, said: "Your actions ended the life of a beloved son, brother and uncle. I have read the statement of Alexa Lee-Hobson, who describes Iain Lee as a loving, kind and caring young man, who had worked hard to achieve his goals in life.

"That loving, kind and caring life has been ended.

"In addition there is the loss and bereavement which this death has caused. I have read the victim personal statements of Iain Lee's parents, Ian Lee and Diane Lee.

"Diane Lee described how her life has not been the same since Iain's death.

"She has an emptiness inside; the tears flow spontaneously; she is no longer the person she was before Iain Lee died; she is living a whole life sentence of heartache and misery."

He added: "It was with one punch, which led to Iain Lee's accelerated fall, that the damage was done and the injuries caused from which Iain Lee died."

The Northern Echo:

Iain Lee, 31, from Newton Aycliffe

Buckland, of Lumley Close, had been standing trial for murder but was found guilty of manslaughter.

During the trial, the court heard 25-year-old Buckland had pursued Mr Lee a short distance before punching him to the ground, following up with a couple of further blows.

Mr Lee was left with two skull fractures after hitting his head on the ground.

The court heard he suffered "significant" mental and physical suffering during the 11 days he spent in hospital, prior to his death on September 19.

Following his death, his organs were donated to five people.

Robert Woodcock, QC, mitigating, said Buckland had no history of violent offending.

He added: "He is someone who when he turns his mind it it, has made a good fist of life and has the ability to demonstrate himself as capable of pursuing a career which he and his family can be proud of.

"That is his tragedy."

Buckland has three prior convictions, including for burglary and drink driving.

He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment.

Detective Superintendent Victoria Fuller said: “This was an extremely tragic incident in which there are no winners.

“In just a few seconds, Buckland took Iain away from his family and the people who loved him the most, changing their lives forever.

“I can only hope that today’s result provides some solace to Iain’s family, who have supported the police investigation throughout, and that they feel justice has been served.

“Using violence on nights out can have catastrophic consequences and, as this case has shown, it only takes a few blows to ruin two lives – one loses their life while the other rightly loses their freedom.  

“We’d urge people to enjoy their time socialising, but we want them to return home safe.

"Please, if you ever find yourself potentially becoming involved in violence on a night out, think twice of how tragic your actions could be and just walk away.”