Tuesday 26 September 2017

Youth denies throwing homeless man's pet into LIffey

Tom Tuite

A DUBLIN youth accused of throwing a homeless man's pet rabbit into the River Liffey has pleaded not guilty to an animal cruelty and torture charge.

John Byrne (39), who had spent the previous 22 years living on the streets, had been sitting on O'Connell Bridge for 10 days when his pet rabbit Barney was thrown into the Liffey, on July 3, 2011.

Hundreds watched as he risked his own life and went into the river to save Barney; both were subsequently rescued by the Dublin Fire Brigade. His rescue of the rabbit was captured on video and went viral on the internet with clips on the You Tube website getting tens of thousands of hits.

Gary Kearney (20), who is from Crumlin but has an address at Conyngham Road, in Dublin city-centre, was later charged under the Protection of Animals Act in connection with the incident.

The charge states that it is alleged he “did cruelly torture or terrify an animal to wit did throw a rabbit into the River Liffey from O'Connell Bridge”, on July 3 last year.

He also faces a breach of the peace charge.

His case had its 15th court listing today and defence solicitor Aine Flynn said that a hearing date would be required adding that he was denying the charges.

Kearney, who was wearing a grey hooded top, navy tracksuit bottoms and white runners, spoke once saying “not guilty”.

Judge Hamill noted that the prosecution would be using CCTV evidence and calling four witnesses, while two people may testify for the defence. Kearney, who is in custody in relation to other matters, was ordered to appear again at Dublin District Court on November 29 next when his non-jury trial will take place.

His charges, on conviction, can result in fines or prison terms. Earlier, gardai had handed over copies of the prosecution evidence including the CCTV footage to the defence.

The rabbit's owner, Mr Byrne, who is originally from Ballyfermot in Dublin, was presented with a compassionate citizen award by the charity Animal Rights Action Network last year.

A supply of carrots for the rabbit and food for Mr Byrne's Jack Russell dog, Lilly, also came with the award.

“Barney and Lilly my dog are my babies,” Mr Byrne had said afterwards adding that he would not hesitate in coming to the rescue of his pets.

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