Friday 14 December 2018

'Justice had not been served' - family's anger as farmer sentenced to five years for killing neighbour with teleporter

  • Michael Ferris (63) convicted of Anthony O'Mahony's manslaughter following row over noisy crow banger
  • Court heard dispute had been brewing for over 30 years
  • Family say pain of victim's death has been 'exacerbated by the leniency' of the sentence
Niece of the late Anthony O’Mahony, Ann O’Carroll (centre) speaks to the media outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today after Michael Ferris was sentenced to five years. Ferris was found guilty of the manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony (73) in Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, on April 4, 2017. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins.
Niece of the late Anthony O’Mahony, Ann O’Carroll (centre) speaks to the media outside the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today after Michael Ferris was sentenced to five years. Ferris was found guilty of the manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony (73) in Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, on April 4, 2017. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins.
Killer Michael Ferris
The late Anthony O’Mahony

Eimear Cotter, Anne Lucey and Rachel Farrell

A Co Kerry farmer who killed his neighbour with a teleporter has been jailed for five years.

Michael Ferris (63) "deprived Anthony O'Mahony of his life in appalling circumstances", a judge said, adding that the deceased man had suffered "horrific, horrible" injuries.

The family of Mr O'Mahony has said that the pain of his death has now been "exacerbated by the leniency" of his sentence.

Michael Ferris (63) was jailed for five years this morning for the manslaughter of his neighbour John Anthony O'Mahony (73).

Outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Mr O'Mahony's family spoke out about the leniency of the sentence, saying that "justice had not been served".

Ann O'Carroll, the deceased's niece, said in a statement that Mr O'Mahony's good name had been "blackened" during the trial, and he had not been there to defend himself.

03/12/2018. Brother of the late Anthony O’Mahony, Seamus (centre) leaves the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today after Michael Ferris was sentenced to five years. Ferris was found guilty of the manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony (73) in Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, on April 4, 2017. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins.
03/12/2018. Brother of the late Anthony O’Mahony, Seamus (centre) leaves the Central Criminal Court in Dublin today after Michael Ferris was sentenced to five years. Ferris was found guilty of the manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony (73) in Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, on April 4, 2017. Photo: Laura Hutton/Collins.

The trial had been a "deeply distressing and painful" ordeal.

She said justice had not been served, and given the pre-meditated nature of the killing the just conviction was one of murder.

The dispute was over a crow banger. Photo: RTE
The dispute was over a crow banger. Photo: RTE

Mrs O'Carroll said the family's pain had now been "exacerbated by the leniency of the sentence imposed by the court".

She said that the defendant's legal team had introduced the defence of provocation. To the O'Mahony family this was an attempt to "justify the killing" and it "denigrated the value of Anthony's life".

Mrs O'Carroll said that "victim blaming" had been in the news and had been mentioned in other cases, and this was "another example of it".

She thanked An Garda Siochana, their neighbours and family for their support, adding that they will never get over the "devastating" loss of Anthony.

Anthony O’Mahony’s sister-in-law Margaret O’Mahony told RTE's Liveline that she "cannot believe" the leniency of the sentence.

“It makes us feel that life is not worth anything anymore in this country, that a person can do that to another person and to get such a lenient sentence, I can’t understand it.

The late Anthony O’Mahony
The late Anthony O’Mahony

“He was the most honorable person, straightforward, and he knew what was right and what was wrong. He did what was right all the time."

Mrs O'Mahony recalled how she heard the tragic news that her brother-in-law had passed away.

"My son got a phone call on the morning that some incident had happened. He went out to find out what was happening, and the road was closed. He spoke to the fire brigade and the gardai and got no information. He went to Anthony’s home and Anthony’s car was not there. He rang his two numbers and got no reply. We were concerned at that point that something had happened to him.

"He came back home to me and we were having a cup of tea wondering what might have happened and we had the local radio station turned on. I heard something on the radio and couldn’t hear it, so I turned it up, and I just heard ‘the body of a man at the scene’. I said there was somebody dead, whoever it is.

"Next thing our phone rang, and it was someone with condolences, and that’s how we heard it."

In October, Ferris was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of John Anthony O'Mahony by a jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Tralee.

Ferris had "snapped" over a crow banger, the court had heard.

He told gardai that Mr O'Mahony had been using the "crow banger" for 30 years and had paid no heed to anyone when asked to stop.

Ferris used his teleporter to block a rural road and then drove the prongs of the vehicle into Mr O'Mahony's car, causing him catastrophic injuries.

This morning, Ms Justice Carmel Stewart imposed a six year sentence, suspending the final 12 months for three years.

The judge also backdated the sentence to when Ferris went into custody, in April 2017.

Judge Stewart said it was of "profound regret", not just to the court, but to all residents of Rattoo, that the issue of the noise from the crow banger had not been dealt with in some other way.

She said the court had to look at the degree of provocation, though this was a subjective test.

The judge said that Ferris inflicted "horrific, horrible" injuries on Mr O'Mahony.

Judge Stewart said the "nature and duration of the attack was truly gruesome and horrific" and "defied belief and imagination".

She said that a small token of consolation for the victim's family was that, on the evidence of the Deputy State Pathologist, Dr Margaret Bolster, death was instantaneous.

The judge also said the effect the killing had and continued to have on Mr O'Mahony's family was difficult to quantify.

Mitigating factors in imposing sentence were the defendant's age and previous good character, that he had been described as "gentlemanly" and had co-operated fully with gardai.

He had also admitted unlawfully killing Mr O'Mahony, though that plea had not been accepted by the DPP.

Last Monday, Mr O'Mahony's family said they were devastated at how their brother's good character had been "shredded" during the trial into his death.

In his victim impact statement, Anthony's brother Seamus O'Mahony said he had worked in partnership with the deceased.

He said he had known there was an issue with some locals about the crow banger but he had not known "the extent of the anger".

Mr O'Mahony said no one had ever approached him about it, and if they had "all this could have been avoided" and some arrangement could have been put in place.

The fact that Anthony was killed over a crow banger "beggars belief" he said, in his victim statement which was read into court by his son James.

He also said the family found it difficult to understand what had happened to Anthony as "who would do something so unspeakable over a crow banger".

Mr O'Mahony said his brother was a "decent and honest" man, a "passionate farmer" and a "hard worker".

He said the family will never get over what happened to Anthony. They had lost a brother, uncle and friend in the most "horrific way imaginable".

Particularly devastating for the family was the way Anthony's good character had been "shredded" during the trial, as "only one side" was told.

He said it had been printed in the media that Anthony's neighbours had been living in fear of him, but people had since approached him to say they were hurt by this, and "so many people only had good things to say" about him.

Solicitor for Michael Ferris, Frank Buttimer has described the trial as “one of the most unusual and possibly unique” cases he has ever been involved in.

Following the sentencing, Mr Buttimer said: “As in all these cases, my first thought would be with the family of the deceased, Mr O’ Mahony, who have suffered a great deal."

Mr Buttimer added that Ferris "regrets deeply what he did".

Asked about criticism by Mr O’Mahony’s relatives about the shredding of his character, Mr Buttimer said the intention was never to blacken the late Mr O’Mahony. The only strategy available to the defence was that of provocation.

“It wasn’t to blacken Mr O’Mahony in any circumstances,” Mr Buttimer said.

He added: “It was more to tell the relationship between the deceased and our client together with other members of the local  community in the context of giving the jury the context of the history between them.

It was a most unusual case, and possibly unique, the solicitor also said: “The facts of this case stand out to me as highly unusual.”

During the trial, the prosecution alleged that Ferris “intentionally rammed” Mr O’Mahony’s car with the large prongs of a teleporter on a country road. This caused severe damage to the car and “catastrophic injuries” to Mr O’Mahony resulting in his death.

Ferris, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, had denied the murder of tillage farmer John Anthony O’Mahony (73) at Rattoo on April 4, 2017.

The prosecution had argued the killing had been deliberate. However, the defence said there had been accumulated provocation because of the behaviour of the deceased.

The court heard that Ferris told gardai he drove the forks of his teleporter through the car because there was no other way to stop Mr O’Mahony using a loud crow banger.

He told gardai after his arrest that the banger, a device used to scare away birds, would wake the dead and had been an issue for 30 years.

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