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Monday 10 December 2018

Family's outrage at killer's sentence for teleporter slaying

Niece of the late Anthony O'Mahony
Niece of the late Anthony O'Mahony
Jailed farmer Michael Ferris
Anthony O'Mahony

A farmer jailed for five years for killing his neighbour with the prongs of a teleporter could be released in less than two.

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

Outside the Criminal Courts of Justice afterwards, Mr O'Mahony's family condemned the sentence, saying that "justice had not been served".

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

It had been a "deeply distressing and painful" ordeal.

Mrs O'Carroll said the family strongly believed that justice had not been served, and given the "deliberate and pre-meditated" nature of the killing, as outlined during the trial, the just conviction was one of murder.

She said the family's pain had now been "exacerbated by the lenient sentence imposed" by the court.

Mrs O'Carroll said 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".

She said "victim blaming" happened daily in other court cases in Ireland, and this was "clearly another example of it".

In October, Ferris, of Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry, was found not guilty of murder but guilty of the manslaughter of Mr O'Mahony (73) at Rattoo on April 4 last year by a jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Tralee.

Snapped

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

During the trial, the prosecution had argued that the killing had been deliberate.

However, the defence said there had been accumulated provocation because of the behaviour of the deceased.

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

He 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.

Yesterday, 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 last year.

With remission and time already served, Ferris is likely to be out of prison by Christmas 2020.

Judge Stewart said it was of "profound regret", not only 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 a small token of consolation for the victim's family was that, on the evidence of Deputy State Pathologist Dr Margaret Bolster, death was instant.

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 sentencing 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.

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