Farmer who killed neighbour with teleporter sees jail term increased from five to nine years

DPP had appealed leniency of Michael Ferris’ sentence for manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony

File photograph of Michael Ferris. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

File photograph of Michael Ferris. Photograph: Domnick Walsh/Eye Focus

 

A farmer convicted of the manslaughter of a neighbour (73) by driving the pronged forks of a teleporter into his car in a row over a crow-banger has seen his jail term increased from five to nine years.

Michael Ferris (64) from Rattoo, Ballyduff, Co Kerry had been sentenced in December 2018 to six years with one year suspended for the manslaughter of Anthony O’Mahony at Rattoo, Ballyduff on April 4th, 2017.

Ferris had been charged with Mr O’Mahony’s murder. A jury at the Central Criminal Court sitting in Tralee in October 2018 had acquitted him of the murder charge but found him guilty of Mr O’Mahony’s manslaughter.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart said the appropriate headline sentence was 12 years but, with discounts for his lack of previous conviction and to incentivise rehabilitation, reduced the term to six years with the final year suspended.

On Monday the Court of Appeal, sitting in Cork for the first time, quashed the net five year sentence and replaced instead with a nine-year term. This was backdated to when Ferris went into custody in December 2018.

Ferris had killed Mr O’Mahony by driving his teleporter, a piece of farm machinery with prongs or forks at the front, into Mr O’Mahony’s car, fatally injuring the deceased who suffered horrendous injuries in the process.

The trial had heard the killing stemmed from a row between the parties over Mr O’Mahony’s use of a crow-banger when both planting and harvesting crops on an outside holding at Rattoo, which had annoyed locals including Ferris.

The DPP had appealed the leniency of Ms Justice Stewart’s net five-year term and delivering the judgement of the Court of Criminal Appeal, Mr Justice George Bermingham said it did not reflect the seriousness of the crime.

“There was a degree of pre-consideration - he had been thinking of it for a few days so there was an element of pre-meditation - taking that with the gross level of violence involved it has to be placed at the high end of manslaughter cases,” he said.

“Here there was an intention to kill. A sentence of six years with one suspended simply failed to reflect the enormity of what occurred - the taking of a human life.” He set a headline sentence of 15 years, discounted by no more than one third and taking previous good character into consideration, imposed an actual sentence of nine years, backdated to when Ferris went into custody in April 2017.

Mr Justice Bermingham was flanked by Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy.