Brother of man shot in hunt rejects accidental death ruling

Prosecutors found Morgan Keane’s death earlier this month was accidental, but his brother is calling for an ‘impartial’ investigation

21 December 2020
By Joanna York

Morgan Keane’s brother and his lawyer are calling for an investigation into the young man’s death earlier this month in the Lot department, after courts ruled his killing an “involuntary homicide”.

Mr Keane, 25, was shot dead while chopping wood on his property, hit by a stray bullet from nearby hunters chasing wild boar. His brother Rohan Keane was with him when he died. 

Now that his death has been ruled an accident by authorities in Cahors, Rohan Keane’s lawyer, Benoit Coussy, has said that there are grounds for a retrial and called for an “impartial” enquiry.

Hundreds gathered in a silent march after Mr Keane's death to honour him, and to call for stricter regulations on hunting in France. 

Lawyer questions responsibility of hunters

According to Mr Coussy, evidence shows that the two brothers were visible to the hunters while they were on a nearby road earlier in the day. As such, even if he couldn’t see them, “the hunter who fired may have been informed by other hunters of the two men’s presence”. 

Speaking to local news source France 3 Occitanie, Mr Coussy also noted the difficulty of actually firing accidentally during a hunt and the collective responsibility of the group of hunters. “If you decide to fire, it is a strong choice that is made in a defined way. There are no accidents possible in hunting,” he said.

“The organisation of the hunt is the first level of responsibility. Then there is the individual behaviour of the hunter, which is defined by the hunt and the hunting society. There are many questions to ask over the responsibility of each person at all levels.”

Local authorities and police also called into question

The lawyer also questioned whether local authorities should take a share of responsibility for allowing the hunt to go ahead during Covid confinement. 

And, while he admitted that police had done good work around the case, he called for another investigation to be handled by police that did not have hunting permits themselves, so that they could draw “impartial” conclusions with no “conflicts of interest".

Read more: Hunting for large game permitted in France despite lockdown

Calls for change in laws

Mr Coussy also said that laws around hunting should be reassessed. He said: “Today, one is very lightly condemned for an ‘involuntary homicide’ committed during hunting season. You could even say that hunters are excused from the crime of homicide.  

“The question to ask is, can we use new legal classifications to make hunters more responsible? That is what we are hoping for.”

The lawyer anticipated that it was likely that Mr Keane’s killer could be sentenced to up to five years in prison for involuntary homicide, although the maximum sentence of five years looked extremely unlikely based on past cases.

Olympic biker targeted by hunter while training

This comes as Olympic mountain bike champion Julien Absalon revealed he was targeted by a hunter while biking in a forest on Friday, December 18.

In a Facebook post he wrote: “I shouted to let him know that I wasn’t a wild boar. I asked him why he was aiming at me, and he said his gun was loaded (how reassuring) but that it was up in the air (still a bit in my direction though).” 

Mr Absalon said that the hunter he encountered was alone, with his dog, with no signs up in the area to indicate that he was hunting. “Is he allowed to hunt alone?” Mr Absalon asked on Facebook. “I’m not anti-hunting, but it’s a bit odd to come across lone people armed with guns in the forest.”

Related stories 

Six arrested in eastern France after illegal boar hunt

Do hunters in France have to put up signposts?

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