Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

Farmer (80) walks free in one of 'worst cases of animal cruelty' witnessed by judge

Dept inspector said horses had started to graze the bushes because no grass was available

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Gordon Deegan

An 80-year old farmer has walked free from court after being at the centre of one of the worst cases of abuse of animals a district court judge has ever come across.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan strike out the five animal neglect charges that Thomas O’Neill of Caherea, Lissycasey, had pleaded guilty to.

Before striking out the charges against the west Clare man, Judge Durcan said that the case “was one of the worst cases of abuse of animals that I have come across as a lawyer and a judge”.

A number of Dept of Agriculture inspections on the farm last year detected eight horse carcasses and a total of 46 horses running wild on two parcels of land owned by Mr O’Neill with a number being emaciated.

Judge Durcan said that it was “a very tragic case”.

Judge Durcan said: “The evidence is that the inspections were distressing for the officers involved”.

Addressing Mr O’Neill, the judge said that he accepted that there was “no intent on your part” in the neglect.

He said: “Matters simply got beyond you.”

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Judge Durcan struck out the charges after Mr O’Neill’s nephew came to his uncle’s aid to pay the €14,491 due to the State for the costs in investigation the offence and disposing of the animals.

Mr O’Neill also paid an additional €2,000 to an animal welfare charity.

Directly addressing Mr O’Neill, Judge Durcan said: “There will be no criminal sanction on you. I am striking out the charges and I hope you can enjoy the years ahead.”

Judge Durcan said that Dept inspectors had comes across “the most appalling aspects of animal cruelty in their visit to the farm in January of last year”.

Solicitor for Mr O’Neill, Daragh Hassett said that Mr O’Neill’s lands have been de-stocked.

In evidence, Dept inspector Aileen Tighe told the court that she was “quite shocked” at the state of the animals when first inspecting the farm in January of last year.

Ms Tighe said that she first visited the farm on January 8th 2016 on foot a complaint and saw that the land was completely bare where the horses were.

She said: “There was no grass whatsoever and the horses had started to graze the bushes because no grass was available and that is something I had never seen that before.”

Ms Tighe said that she arranged feed for the horses and served notice on Mr O’Neill concerning the horses' welfare.

Ms Tighe carried out a number of visits to the land in January and February and in a visit in February, she saw eight carcasses of horses that had  died in the previous month, the carcasses of two other animals that had died some time ago and bones strewn across the land.

Mr Hassett said that Mr O’Neill has no previous convictions. He said: “He wasn’t able to look after the animals. There is no defence in this case.”

He said: “Mr O’Neill was incapable of asking for help in looking after the animals.”

Mr Hassett said: “These cases properly carry an element of social disquiet because the public is appalled - with justification because these animals have no voice and rely on humans to make sure they are looked after.”

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