DPP to argue that manslaughter sentence for Kerry farmer 'unduly lenient'

Killer Michael Ferris
Killer Michael Ferris

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Prosecutors have been given a date in December to argue that the five year jail term given to Kerry farmer Michael Ferris, who drove the prongs of a teleporter into his neighbour after a decades-long row about a noisy bird-scarer, was “unduly lenient”.

Dairy farmer Ferris (64) of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, had denied murdering his neighbour Anthony O’Mahony (73) over the use of a crow-banger for scaring birds at Rattoo on the morning of April 4, 2017. The two-week trial was told that the noise from the crow-banger “would wake the dead”.

The Central Criminal Court heard evidence that tillage farmer O’ Mahony suffered "catastrophic injuries" after he was repeatedly stabbed with the prongs of the teleporter while he sat in his car.

A jury sitting in Tralee found Ferris not guilty of murder but guilty of Mr O’Mahony’s manslaughter by a majority verdict of 10 to two.

Sentencing Ferris to six years imprisonment with the final year suspended, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said Ferris had inflicted "horrific and horrendous" injuries on the deceased which defied belief and imagination. The only consolation for the O'Mahony family was that his death would have been instantaneous in what was a “truly gruesome and horrific” attack, Ms Justice Stewart said.

She backdated Ferris’ sentence to April 4, 2017 when he first went into custody.

The Director of Public Prosecutions are seeking a review of Ferris’ sentence on grounds it was “unduly lenient”.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham fixed December 2 next as the date for the hearing. He also listed the DPP’s appeal for hearing in Cork.

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Brendan Grehan SC, defending bachelor farmer Ferris, told the Central Criminal Court that his client wished to express remorse and sorrow for his actions that day as well as for the death of Mr O’Mahony.

The defence had argued that there had been cumulative provocation because of the behaviour of the deceased. In his closing speech to the jury of seven men and five women, Mr Grehan said he made no apology for speaking ill of the dead, which was not a normal thing to do but the community in Rattoo was being "oppressed" by Mr O’Mahony and living in fear of a "totally unreasonable person".

After the sentence hearing, Mr O’Mahoney’s niece, Ann O'Carroll, spoke outside court.

"Our family strongly believe that justice was not served in this case. The just outcome would have been a conviction for murder given that the crime was clearly deliberate and premeditated as outlined during the trial," she said.

"The trial was a deeply distressing and painful ordeal for our family. Our brother, uncle and friend was taken from us in the most brutal and violent way possible. This pain was made worse by the blackening of Anthony's good name and character during the trial when he was not there to defend himself. And now our pain has been exacerbated by the lenient sentence imposed today,” Ms O’Carroll said.

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