Cavan man who shot wife dead in act of gross negligence loses appeal

Oliver Kierans

A man found guilty of shooting his wife dead in an act of gross negligence has lost an appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Oliver Kierans (60) of Drumbannon, Bailieborough in Cavan, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Patricia Kierans (54), his wife of 33 years, at his home address on September 5, 2013.

He was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter by a majority jury verdict following 15 hours of deliberations.

He was also found guilty of possessing a double barrel sawn-off shotgun and possessing the weapon with intent to endanger life.

Patricia Kierans died from a shotgun wound to the chest after being shot at a range of about 1.2 metres or 4 feet, in the close confines of a bedroom in Kierans’ home.

Kierans contended that he had picked up the firearm with the intention of taking his own life but the shotgun discharged in the direction of his wife.

After the shooting, Kierans went to The Square bar in Bailieborough where a "siege" took place.

Garda Thomas Fay, who had known Kierans for almost 30 years, went into the bar to talk to him. However, CCTV footage from inside the pub showed Kierans pointing the shotgun at the garda.

Kierans pulled the trigger, but the gun didn’t go off. CCTV showed him looking at the gun quizzically afterwards.

The situation came to an end when Kierans eventually left the pub with Garda Fay.

Kierans was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for his wife’s manslaughter, eight years for possession of the shotgun and 12 years for pointing the gun at Garda Fay by Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly on April 20, 2015. All sentences were to run concurrently.

Upholding his conviction and sentence today, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy said Kierans had picked up the shotgun to show his wife he would kill himself. However, the gun discharged due to “unexpected movement”.

Mr Justice McCarthy said the trial judge correctly instructed the jury with regards to intent and the particular circumstances of the case.

He said the court rejected Kierans' appeal against conviction.

In relation to sentence, Kierans’ barrister, Paul Greene SC, submitted that the Central Criminal Court judge ought to have afforded more credit for Kierans’ personal circumstances.

However, Mr Justice McCarthy said the judge expressly took account of Kierans’ family situation and his previous good character.

He said the aggravating factors were significant. Kierans’ reloaded the shotgun after the homicide and went to a public place.

He said Ireland had the “privilege of having an unarmed police force” and Kierans put Garda Fay “in fear of his life”.

Mr Justice McCarthy, who sat with President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham and Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy, said the sentences were within range and the appeal was accordingly dismissed.

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