BELFAST Crown Court Judge Donna McColgan QC sentenced four men to six months imprisonment suspended for two years following their plea of guilty to animal cruelty charges.
The court heard that on 20 October 2011 the police seized a phone belonging to Jamie Morrow and found three video clips, one of which was created on 26 August 2011 and depicted four dogs attacking and killing a cat.
Further searches were carried out at Morrow’s address and the home of Jeremiah Kirkwood and his sons Christopher and Wayne.
In the rear yard of the Kirkwood’s home, the police found kennels containing five adult dogs of a bull-lurcher type which displayed injuries consistent with animal fighting.
They also found four bull-terrier cross puppies with their tails docked. The search also uncovered materials designed or adapted for use in connection with an animal fight and veterinary medicine used to treat animal wounds.
A dog was found at Morrow’s address. A vet positively identified this dog and two of the Kirkwoods’ dogs as the ones seen on the video clip.
The prosecution, however, we not able to prove that any of the four defendants before the court had either recorded the video clip, or indeed were present at the scene.
The Judge said that all four defendants originally denied culpability.
“Their trial was due to start on 13 January 2014 on a Bill of Indictment containing 22 charges.
“On 14 January the defendants applied to be re-arraigned on the following counts and pleaded guilty:
Jeremiah, Christopher and Wayne Kirkwood:
Causing unnecessary suffering to animals (x1);
Ownership of items in connection with an animal fight (x1);
Keeping or training animals for an animal fight (x1).
Keeping or training an animal for an animal fight (x1).
In sentencing the defendants, Judge McColgan stated that she was sentencing them in respect of these offences only and that the maximum penalty that could be imposed on any of the counts was a period of two years imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
She said that had the defendants originally faced the charges to which they pleaded guilty they would almost certainly have been dealt with at the Magistrates’ Court but at the highest level of that jurisdiction.
The judge said that, after taking into consideration the physical and psychological matters highlighted in the pre-sentence reports and treating Christopher Kirkwood and Jamie Morrow as persons with no relevant criminal records, the sentence in respect of each defendant should be one of six months imprisonment suspended for two years.
Judge McColgan also disqualified the four defendants from owning or keeping animals or participating in the keeping or transporting of animals for ten years.
She granted the order sought be the prosecution for the destruction of the three adult dogs remaining and made an order for the forfeiture and destruction of all equipment seized.
The judge noted that the four bull-terrier cross puppies have been rehomed.