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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 November 2007, 12:11 GMT
Playground shooter avoids prison
Darragh Somers
Darragh Somers recovered from his wounds
A 73-year-old farmer who admitted shooting a five-year-old boy in the head at a school playground near Enniskillen has been fined 5,000.

Fergus Cleary of Ballydoolagh Road, Garvary, County Fermanagh, admitted maliciously wounding Darragh Somers more than two years ago.

After the hearing at Omagh Crown Court, Darragh's family criticised the fine.

He was shot in the back of the head as he played at St Patrick's Primary School, Mullanaskea in April 2005.

Surgeons carried out two major operations to remove the .22 rifle bullet from his head.

Darragh was critically injured and spent two months in hospital. Though now recovered he still has permanent partial disability.

Cleary was arrested two months after the shooting.

Fergus Cleary
Fergus Cleary changed his plea to guilty

He had initially denied maliciously wounding the boy, but in a surprise move last month, his defence team requested the case come before a judge in Dungannon.

It was at that hearing, with no journalists or members of the Somers family present, that he pleaded guilty.

Darragh's father, Gerald, criticised the fine.

"I thought I was coming here today to get some closure, but it has just left me in a daze," he said.

"What we would have liked was for the man to come personally and apologise."

Judge McFarland said the incident was quite unique because it involved the discharge of one round during a common rural activity (shooting crows), "albeit in a grossly negligent manner".

He said Cleary should have known how far the bullet would have travelled and taken into account that the school playground was in his line of fire.

"This incident is clearly a lesson to you, and others, that the discharge of these weapons, even in the context of sport or vermin control, can have serious consequences," he said.

The judge said in imposing a fine he was taking account of a number of matters including the age and good character of the defendant and his remorse.

He also considered the guilty plea although he commented that it took Cleary more than two years to come to terms with the fact that the bullet came from his rifle and to admit responsibility.

The judge also ordered that the gun and the ammunition be destroyed.

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