Four years in prison for teen who accidentally shot friend

A teenager who claims he accidentally shot dead his friend as they joked around with a loaded gun has been sentenced to five and a half years, with the final 18 months suspended.

Dean Short, now aged 21, of Lally Road, Ballyfermot pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the unlawful killing of Paul McCarthy (18) at Myra Close, Emmet Road, Inchicore on May 9, 2011.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring noted that Short “did not set out to kill his friend but his foolishness caused an unlawful and unexpected result with an illegally held gun in the company of young men smoking cannabis”.

She said “the loss of a young person is the loss of promise” and that “pointing a gun, even in jest, is recklessness in extreme.”

Judge Ring expressed the court's condolences to the McCarthy family saying the loss of Paul “is huge and felt as deeply today.”

Detective Sergeant Michael McNulty told the court he was called to the scene shortly before 3pm and found Paul McCarthy lying injured on the floor of his friend's bedroom with a single gun shot wound to the head.

The bullet had entered the right upper side of his face and come out the back of his skull.

He was taken to hospital where his condition deteriorated and he was pronounced dead a few hours later from “devastating brain injury.”

John Byrne BL, prosecuting said earlier that day, five teenage friends had gathered in one of their bedrooms when Mr McCarthy took out a gun out of a bag and started waving it around and laughing.

Short later told gardaí his other friends were also laughing and saying “Get it out of me face” and that Paul said “Boys, it doesn't work, relax” before putting the gun down on the bed.

Short said “everyone was laughing, it was all a joke,” and that he picked up the gun and pointed it at Paul saying “How d'you like it now Paulie,” before the gun went off in his hand.

“The thing just went off, like, and I froze, everything froze. The gun dropped out of my hands. I got down on my knees and knelt over Paul begging him to get up,” he said.

He ran out of the room with the other boys, all screaming, and then went back upstairs where he said Paul was “just lying on his own, shaking.”

“I said 'I have to go, I'm sorry,' and then I grabbed the gun and ran out the door and legged it and dropped the gun into a garden.”

Det Sg McNulty said Short presented himself at Kilmainham Garda Station the following day with two of his friends who had been at the scene.

Short was arrested and underwent a total of 12 interviews during which his account of events remained consistent, and similar to the accounts given by the three other witnesses.

He told gardaí, “I shot my friend by accident, I didn't mean to, I'm so, so sorry,” describing Mr McCarthy as his best friend.

Michael O'Higgins SC, defending, said Short had written a private letter to the McCarthy family and wanted to say to them that he was very, very sorry.

“I loved him like a brother,” he said in the letter.

In a victim impact statement read out in court, the McCarthy family said Paul was a “generous, gentle, loving boy” and very much loved as the only brother of eight sisters.

The court heard that the deceased man was funny, witty and often bragged about his football skills with St Patrick's Athletic.

The family said they are now living “an emotional rollercoaster” and that some of his sisters are being treated for depression while his mother has had a nervous breakdown since the death of her only son.

They said they have found themselves “not being able to trust anyone” and say they still do not know the answer as to what happened on that day.

Mr McCarthy's mother said she had to move out of the area following the death of her only son and that she does not think she will ever accept his loss.

Mr O'Higgins said Short is acutely aware of the pain and suffering he has inflicted on the McCarthy family and that he feels particularly sorry for Paul's mother.

He said his client apologises unreservedly and would do anything to reverse what happened.

A psychiatrist's report diagnosed Short with post-traumatic stress disorder and said he suffered nightmares and had a huge sense of guilt, remorse and despair.

A clinical psychologist described Short as a “good person and a gentle spirit” who was “completely overwhelmed by the situation he finds himself in, and has difficulty coming to terms with the awful consequences of what he has done.”

The court heard that Short has 28 previous convictions, mostly for road traffic and public order offences.

Letters were presented to the court from the Probation Services describing Short as a personal and co-operative young man, while elderly neighbours said he was always doing small kindnesses for them like putting out the bins, cutting the grass and getting messages.

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