Farmer who shot at garda loses appeal on gun licence

Fri, Jan 27, 2012, 00:00

A FARMER who fired a shotgun at a garda thinking he was a burglar, lost an appeal yesterday against a Garda refusal to allow him to hold a gun licence.

James Smith (53), who previously failed in another appeal against the revocation of his gun licence following the incident, said yesterday: “I’m not a lunatic, I don’t fire at the gardaí.”

In court yesterday, uniformed garda Chris Brennan said he and a colleague had gone to Mr Smith’s house in error in the early hours of March 13th, 2010, upon receiving a report of a possible burglary in the area.

Garda Brennan said he got out of an unmarked patrol car, which he said had its blue strobe lights flashing, and shone his torch in at Mr Smith’s house. He then got up on a high wall next to the entrance gates to investigate the matter further, when he suddenly heard a gunshot.

“I jumped down off the wall and I had to check myself to see if I had been shot,” said Garda Brennan, of Henry Street Garda station, Limerick.

“I was in shock at the time. It was a frightening experience for me.”

Mr Smith, of Derryfadda, Clonlara, Co Clare, who had held a firearms licence for 27 years before the incident, told Judge Timothy Lucey at Limerick District Court that the unmarked Garda car did not have its blue strobe lights flashing.

“I was in bed asleep and my dogs woke me up. I looked out the window and saw a man at the top of my gate. I asked him ‘what do you want’, and I got no response. I said, ‘get the f*** off my wall, I have a gun’.

“Again I got no response so I fired a shot. The man jumped off the wall and it was only then I heard someone shout ‘gardaí gardaí’,” he told the court.

Mr Smith said he would “do things differently now . . . in hindsight”.

Supt Frank O’Brien of Henry Street Garda station, Limerick, told the court he had previously revoked Mr Smith’s gun licence because of Mr Smith’s “disproportionate response” on the night he fired the shot.

Supt O’Brien said this formed his decision not to grant Mr Smith another gun licence.

Judge Lucey refused Mr Smith’s appeal against the Garda refusal to allow him hold a gun licence.

“He’s not a bad man or anything like that but, on balance, I don’t think he should get a licence. Gardaí have the right to go on to private property.

“This applicant feels he’s not prepared to put up with that and I feel he’s wrong in that,” Judge Lucey said.

“People who call to houses in the middle of the night are not all criminals out to get you, and I think he was assuming that,” he added.

“This is about a licence to shoot birds and game, not a licence to shoot burglars.”