A former British soldier convicted of the manslaughter of a Co Tyrone man going to a GAA match 35 years ago will not now be sentenced until next week.

David Holden, 53, had been expected to be sentenced in a Belfast court today for shooting Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy, Co Tyrone, 35 years ago.

Holden was convicted of manslaughter in November last year. But this morning the trial judge said he would hear pleas of mitigation today. He will then pass sentence next Thursday.

Holden is the first British army veteran to be convicted since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Depending on the sentence imposed, Holden could benefit from the agreement's early release scheme for prisoners. That would mean he would serve a maximum of two years.

Mr McAnespie, 23, was shot in the back from an army checkpoint in the village of Aughnacloy on the Tyrone/Monaghan border on 21 February 1988.

He was walking to a game in the nearby GAA ground.

The former soldier Holden, who was 18 at the time and serving in the Grenadier Guards, claimed the shooting had been an accident.

But the judge ruled he had pointed a machine gun at Mr McAnespie from an observation sanger in the checkpoint and pulled the trigger, assuming the weapon was not cocked and ready for use.

That was an assumption he should never have made and as a result he was guilty of manslaughter "by gross negligence", the judge ruled.

He dismissed the soldier's claim that it happened as he handled the weapon with wet gloves and that his finger had slipped onto the trigger.

Former soldier David Holden arriving at court in Belfast this morning

The judge described that as a "deliberately false account" and said the expert evidence had been that it took nine pounds of pressure on the trigger to fire the weapon.

Three rounds were fired in a short burst. One of them ricocheted off the road and hit Mr McAnespie in the back.

During the trial, the court was told that Mr McAnespie was a "person of interest" to the security forces.

He had complained of regular harassment at the checkpoint and often parked his car and walked through the checkpoint to the GAA grounds to avoid lengthy delays caused by searches of his vehicle.

A memorial to Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy

The case is taking place as the British government's controversial legacy plans continue to make their way through Westminster.

They have been rejected by all of Northern Ireland's political parties and the Irish Government and face considerable opposition in the House of Lords where they are currently being debated.

The plan would effectively end all criminal and civil cases and inquest hearings relating to the Troubles.

Instead, there would be a truth recovery process in which former paramilitaries would be encouraged to participate, in return for an amnesty from prosecution.

The British government has promised amendments in the face of overwhelming criticism, but has been accused of tinkering at the edges.

The legislation follows a Conservative Party commitment to legal protections for British army veterans.

After the sentence is handed down by the court, Holden's legal team must apply to Northern Ireland's Sentence Review Commissioners to have it commuted.