A YOUNG man who claims he accidentally shot dead his friend as they joked around with a loaded gun has been jailed for four years.
Dean Short, now aged 21, of Lally Road, Ballyfermot, Dublin, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the unlawful killing of Paul McCarthy (18) at Myra Close, Emmet Road, Inchicore, on May 9, 2011.
Judge Mary Ellen Ring noted that Short "did not set out to kill his friend but his foolishness caused an unlawful and unexpected result with an illegally held gun in the company of young men smoking cannabis".
Judge Ring expressed the court's condolences to the McCarthy family, saying "the loss of a young person is the loss of promise" and that "pointing a gun, even in jest, is recklessness in extreme".
Detective Sergeant Michael McNulty told the court he was called to the scene shortly before 3pm and found Mr McCarthy lying injured on the floor of his friend's bedroom with a single gunshot wound to the head.
Mr McCarthy was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated and he was pronounced dead a few hours later.
John Byrne, prosecuting, said Mr McCarthy had earlier taken the gun out of a bag and started waving it around and laughing in front of five of his friends.
Mr Short told gardai "everyone was laughing, it was all a joke", and that he picked up the gun and pointed it at Paul saying: "How d'you like it now Paulie," before the gun went off in his hand.
"The thing just went off, like, and I froze, everything froze. The gun dropped out of my hands. I got down on my knees and knelt over Paul begging him to get up," he said.
He ran out of the room with the other boys, all screaming, and then went back upstairs where he said Paul was "just lying on his own, shaking."
"I said 'I have to go, I'm sorry,' and then I grabbed the gun and ran out the door and legged it and dropped the gun into a garden."
Det Sgt McNulty said Short went to Kilmainham garda station the following day with two of his friends who had been at the scene.
He told gardai: "I shot my friend by accident, I didn't mean to, I'm so, so sorry," describing Mr McCarthy as his best friend.
Michael O'Higgins, defending, said Short had written a private letter to the McCarthy family and wanted to say to them that he was very, very sorry.
"I loved him like a brother," he said in the letter.
In a victim impact statement read out in court, the McCarthy family said Paul was a "generous, gentle, loving boy" and very much loved as the only brother of eight sisters.
The court heard that the deceased man was funny, witty and often bragged about his football skills with St Patrick's Athletic.
The family said they were now living "an emotional rollercoaster" and that some of his sisters were being treated for depression, while his mother had had a nervous breakdown.
They said they found themselves "not being able to trust anyone" and said they still did not know the answer as to what happened on that day.
Mr O'Higgins said his client was acutely aware of the pain and suffering he has inflicted on the McCarthy family.
The court heard that Short had 28 previous convictions, mostly for road traffic and public order offences.
He was sentenced to five and a half years, with the final 18 months suspended.