Killer’s sentence cut after judge ruled he has made ‘exceptional and unforeseen’ progress in jail

Stephen Bonallie
Stephen Bonallie
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A Sunderland man who was caged for battering to death a vulnerable former psychiatric patient ‘for sport’ has won a second cut in his minimum jail term.

Stephen Bonallie, now 26, was part of a gang of three out-of-control young men who brutally murdered 23-year-old Brent Martin in August 2007.

Brent Martin with mum Brenda.

Brent Martin with mum Brenda.

Mr Martin was kicked and stamped on, before being left to die with his pants around his ankles on the Town End Farm estate.

The ‘kind and caring’ Mr Martin had been set upon like ‘a pack of hounds on a fox’, top judge Lord Phillips said at the time.

Bonallie, 17 at the time of the killing, was convicted of murder at Newcastle Crown Court in 2008 and jailed for a minimum of 18 years.

That was cut to 15 years by appeal judges later that year - and now to only 14 years after a second review by a High Court judge in London.

Brent Martin

Brent Martin

Mr Justice Jeremy Baker said Bonallie, formerly of Birtley Avenue, had made ‘exceptional and unforeseen’ progress in jail.

He had done all he could to rehabilitate himself and shown himself now to be a ‘mature’ person who helped other inmates.

Despite initially behaving badly in custody, he had since acknowledged the horror of what he did to Mr Martin.

“Most importantly, he appears to show very significant insight into his responsibility for the victim’s death, and the factors which were involved,” said the judge.

In a letter, Bonallie had himself written: “The night of the attack was knowones (sic) fault but my own.

“I was a young, angry, immature teenager that thought it was clever to drink and take drugs with peers, but now I know it was stupid.

“Not that I didn’t know then because I did, I just never thought it would lead to a man’s death.

“I do have genuine remorse and will never truly understand what my victim’s family and loved ones are still going through.”

The judge said he had taken into account statements by members of Mr Martin’s family and that the killing continues to have a ‘profound’ effect on them.

But given the sort of person Bonallie was when he was sent down, the unexpected turnaround in his outlook and behaviour justified a cut in his minimum term.

“I am satisfied that his progress has not only been exceptional but also, given the low base from which he started, unforeseen,” he said.

Bonallie’s minimum term was cut to 14 years, less the 186 days he spent on remand before he was sentenced.

The decision means he will be free to apply to the Parole Board for release on licence in the summer of 2021.

His accomplices, William Hughes and Marcus Miller, were not involved in today’s review.