A “moment of madness” on the foothills of Carrauntoohil saw a farmer take an already loaded double-barrel shotgun and discharge it at his daughter’s then partner, injuring him.
Whiskey had been produced during a New Year’s Eve party, and “old wounds” were re-opened in an act that was out of character for Martin Clifford, a married father of three, the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee was told.
Judge John Hannan slammed the “loose control” of the licensed weapon as “outrageous” and said he wanted to send “a strong message” to farmers and others “privileged” to have access to guns.
Clifford, aged 51, of Glencuttane, Kilgobnet, Beaufort, Co Kerry, had pleaded guilty to one count of endangerment and one count of reckless discharge of a firearm at Glencuttane on January 1, 2014.
John Foley, aged 33, of Boheshill, Glencar, had to spend three days in hospital having gunshot pellets removed from his right side, the court was told.
However, Mr Foley regarded what happened as “a moment of madness”, linked to intoxication, he still saluted Clifford and he bore him “no animosity”, and did not want him jailed, he said in a victim impact statement read by Sgt Leo Randles.
It was New Year’s Eve on the foothills of Carrauntoohil, and Clifford had earlier had gone to the town of Killorglin and had two pints.
Later whiskey was produced at a party, said Sgt Leo Randles, agreed with Tom Rice, prosecuting.
The relationship between Mr Foley and Nicola Clifford had been “volatile” and tumultuous and the Clifford family were concerned about their daughter, Sgt Randles also said.
“Old wounds were opened up due to intoxication,” Sgt Randles replied to Brian McInerney, defending.
Clifford went to the shed and took the shotgun and discharged one barrel from 15 yards away at Mr Foley.
Farmers “not uncommonly” kept a shotgun loaded so that they could get at it quickly, particularly at night, Mr McInerney said — after Judge Hannan intervened to ask if it would be normal for farmers in Kerry to have weapons with cartridges in the breech sitting in the shed.
The judge said he viewed such “loose control “ and contravention of the basic rules for handling a weapon as “outrageous”.
Judge John Hannan accepted the incident was “out of character”. But the fact that Clifford, a licensed gun holder, had kept his gun in an open area, ready for use, was “reckless”.
He convicted Clifford on both counts, sentencing him to two years on each and suspending the sentence for three years, binding him to the peace.
He also fined Clifford —who the court heard was a modest farmer — €8,000.
After the court, Padraig O’Connell, solicitor for Clifford, said his client truly regretted the incident which was indeed “a moment of madness”.