Veteran guilty of manslaughter
Veteran guilty of manslaughter

A WA veteran has been acquitted of murdering a former outlaw bikie, but convicted of manslaughter over the fatal shooting in a small country town.

James Stephen Callaghan, known as Jim or Jimbo, had argued he was defending himself when he shot his former friend Gavin McMaster while confronting him over suspicions he set his car ablaze in February last year.

Today, a Supreme Court jury deliberated for about 90 minutes before finding Callaghan not guilty of murder, a crime that includes an intent to kill or inflict life threatening injury.

Instead, the jury convicted him of the lesser offence of manslaughter, which does not allege the same intent.

Prosecutor Laura Christian had argued that Callaghan armed self with a rifle and went to Mr McMaster's house believing there was just one solution to his trouble with the one-time bikie - to kill him.

But defence counsel Philip Urquhart suggested at the beginning of the trial that the jury put themselves in his client's position - finding their car on fire and believing the "prime suspect" who "had it in" for them was a former motorcycle gang member whose history included shooting and wounding two people.

The court was told the pair had once been mates but the friendship turned bad.

Mr Urquhart said in his opening address that his client had gone to Mr McMaster's home with his rifle deliberately pointing to the ground. He said it was after Mr Callaghan threw a tomahawk at his client and began to leave that Callaghan feared Mr McMaster was going to retrieve another weapon and fired "purely in self defence".

The prosecution told the jury Callaghan had shot through a cupboard and struck his victim in the leg before firing another two shots that hit him in the back.

"The shooting has nothing to do with self defence," Ms Christian had said at the beginning of the case, suggesting ballistics and blood spatter experts would support the State's case.

The jury was told that the law defined self defence as an act done when a person believed it was necessary in order to protect themselves against harm - even if the harm was not imminent. In addition, this act had to be a reasonable response in the circumstances as the person reasonably saw them.

The West Australian

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