Vic farmer 'tripped, never pulled trigger'

Jacqueline Le

A Victorian farmer who accidentally shot dead a man after tripping on an eggplant should be spared a long jail sentence because he never pulled the trigger, his lawyer says.

Angelo Russo, 55, has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of David Calandro, 43, who was shot in front of his two young sons while sitting in his ute in 2017.

Russo says he tripped on an eggplant while holding his loaded double-barrel shotgun at his Tatura farm in the Goulburn Valley on February 18 last year.

The defence says a police ballistics expert has confirmed the gun had a faulty safety switch and would have been capable of firing a shot without the trigger being activated.

"He tripped," defence barrister Patrick Tehan QC told a Victorian Supreme Court pre-sentence hearing on Thursday.

"It was an accidental discharge of the weapon without pressing the trigger."

Justice Michael Croucher said Mr Calandro was killed in tragic circumstances.

"Whichever way you look at it, a man has been killed in front of his children," he told the court.

"There's no getting around that."

But Mr Tehan said Russo's crime was not as serious as other manslaughter cases.

"If it's anywhere on the scale, it's going to be on the lower end of the scale for manslaughter by criminal negligence," the barrister said.

Russo had no intention of shooting Mr Calandro and was holding his gun after moments earlier putting down his dog Harry, Mr Tehan said.

The spaniel had been run over by Mr Calandro while he was driving out of Russo's property.

The 43-year-old drove back to Russo's farm after Russo rang a mutual friend and said: "Tell him (Mr Calandro) to come back and look at what he's done to my f***ing dog."

Mr Calandro was shot as Russo walked towards him with the gun in his hands.

In his police interview, Russo told investigators: "There was an eggplant on the ground there and my foot must have rolled on it."

The farmer pleaded guilty to manslaughter last week, days after his murder trial began before a jury.

Russo entered the plea after the prosecution agreed to withdraw the murder charge and other charges linked to Mr Calandro's two young sons.