A KERRY farmer who killed his neighbour by ramming his car with the prongs of a teleporter agri-machine had his manslaughter sentence increased by four years at the Court of Appeal.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had challenged the five year prison term handed to Michael Ferris (64) as “unduly lenient.”
The Court of Appeal, sitting in Cork, ruled that the original sentence was an error that required intervention. Mr Justice George Bermingham, who was sitting with two other judges, said that the suspension of part of the sentence was inappropriate.
He also acknowledged that the ruling of the Court of Appeal would come as “a source of considerable disappointment” to Mr Ferris and those close to him.
The Court of Appeal directed that Ferris serve a nine year sentence dating from when he was first taken into custody in April 2017.
Ferris was before the Court of Appeal because the DPP challenged the alleged leniency of the sentence imposed by the Central Criminal Court last December.
The 64 year old was acquitted of the murder of Anthony O’Mahony (73) on April 4 2017 by a jury in Tralee in October 2018.
He was instead convicted of Mr O’Mahony’s manslaughter or unlawful killing after a high-profile Central Criminal Court trial which lasted a fortnight.
The 73 year old died from horrific internal injuries when the prongs of an agri-teleporter were repeatedly driven into his car by Ferris at Rattoo outside Ballyduff, Co Kerry where both had holdings.
The trial was told that the pensioner had suffered “catastrophic injuries” and his death would have been almost instantaneous.
Mr O’Mahony was effectively eviscerated by the prongs of the powerful agri-machine while seated in his car and died at the scene.
The incident followed a simmering row between the two men over the noise produced by a crow-banger in a field farmed by Mr O’Mahony.
The two week trial was told the noise generated by the ‘crow banger’ had annoyed neighbours – and was loud enough to “wake the dead.”
Ms Justice Carmel Stewart last year imposed a six year prison sentence on Ferris with the final 12 months suspended.
She said he had inflicted “horrific and horrendous” injuries on the deceased which defied belief and imagination. Ferris’ sentence was backdated to April 4 2017 when he was first taken into custody.
However, prosecutors subsequently challenged the sentence imposed, arguing that it was unduly lenient given the overall circumstances of the offence.
Defence counsel, Brendan Grehan SC, in his closing speech, said he made no apology for speaking ill of the dead which was not a normal thing to do.
He argued it was necessary to show why Michael Ferris was “a good man who did a bad thing”. The defence mounted was described as “cumulative provocation.”
After the December sentencing hearing in which Ferris was jailed for five years, Mr O’Mahony’s family hit out at the manner in which the victim had been portrayed during the trial process.
They complained that his reputation had been “shredded” during the two week hearing. His niece, Ann O’Carroll, said the elderly farmer was effectively “crucified by prongs”.
She said her family were also very upset that Ferris did not take the witness stand to offer an explanation for his actions that day.
While an apology was offered to her family via the defence legal team, she dismissed it as “an absolute insult.”
Mr O’Mahony ranked as a hugely respected farmer and was considered one of Ireland’s foremost experts on cereal and horticultural farming.
His family last year said they were deeply upset that Ferris, who has been in custody since 2017, could be released as early as late 2020.
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