David Holden, 53, had been expected to be sentenced on Friday, January 27 after being convicted in November 2022 of the manslaughter of McAnespie.

At Belfast Crown Court on Friday, however, Justice O'Hara said he wanted to consider several issues before sentencing Holden, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Prosecuting counsel Ciaran Murphy KC told the court on Friday that only in "exceptional circumstances'' could a suspended sentence be imposed on Holden, who faces a maximum of two years in prison.

However, Defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue KC urged the court not to impose an immediate custodial sentence on Holden, arguing that it would "be unjust and unfair."

Holden was released on continuing bail.

Speaking outside of the court on Friday, Sean McAnespie, Aidan's brother, told the press that he and his family "found it very difficult there today.

"We were thinking that all through the case that Aidan was the victim, but today it seems that Mr. Holden was the victim.

"The only remorse was for himself and what he went through. There was no word about Aidan over these last 35 years."

Sean McAnespie says it was ‘difficult ‘for the family today in court. He says ‘No remorse, no word about Aidan.’ Focusing on Aidan being the victim not David Holden. Sentencing will be on Thursday. @AmnestyNI @PhoenixLawHR pic.twitter.com/Km24PYZuXP

— Amanda Ferguson (@AmandaFBelfast) January 27, 2023

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International UK’s Deputy Director in Northern Ireland, said afterward on Friday: “We and the family will return to the court next week for sentencing in what has been a long fight by the family for justice.

“The significance of this case is clear, both for the McAnespies and particularly at a time when the UK government continues to push through the overwhelmingly opposed Troubles Bill which cruelly betrays the many victims still seeking justice while protecting the perpetrators of manslaughter, murder, torture, and other serious crimes.”

In November 2022, Holden was found guilty of the manslaughter of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie, who was shot in the back near a checkpoint in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, while on his way to a local GAA match in February 1988. 

Holden was the first former British soldier to be convicted of a historical offense since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. 

Holden, who was serving with the Grenadier Guards as an 18-year-old at the time, denied the charge of gross negligent manslaughter during his non-jury trial at Belfast Crown Court. 

Holden claimed the shooting was "accidental," stating that his hands were wet at the time, adding that his finger had only been on the trigger for "seconds."

He admitted firing three rounds but said he did not know if he hit McAnespie, who was unarmed, because he could no longer see the 23-year-old. 

He confirmed that he had checked McAnespie's car registration and identified him as a "person of interest."

Defense counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC said Holden's account "could not be disproved," adding that "it was not a lying account."

Crown counsel Ciaran Murphy QC said in his closing submission that Holden had managed to "strike the very target of his surveillance."

"The one person he was aware of and in whom he had an interest was Aidan McAnespie," Murphy said. 

Justice O'Hara said he was satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt that Holden was guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence, adding that the ex-soldier should have appreciated the consequences of his actions the moment he pulled the trigger. The judge added that Holden gave a "deliberately false account" of what happened.