Farmer gets suspended sentence for animal cruelty, but told he'll go 'straight to prison' if he has contact with animals again
A farmer who four years ago became the first person in Northern Ireland to be jailed under new animal welfare legislation, yesterday received an 18 month jail sentence, suspended for four years, at the Crown Court in Derry when he pleaded guilty to two charges of cruelty to two sows.
Michael Agnew, 47, who now lives at an address in Garvagh, also received a lifetime ban from ever owning, keeping, transporting or dealing with animals. Judge Philip Babington also ordered that any animals currently owned by Agnew should be taken into the possession of officials from the Department of Agriculture and Regional Development and that Agnew should pay for those re-possession costs.
Agnew, who had 159 previous criminal convictions, nineteen of them for animal welfare offences, admitted committing the two offences of animal cruelty at his then farm at 112 Ballynease Road in Portglenone on October 6, 2015.
Prosecution barrister Catherine Chasemore told Judge Babington that Agnew was already known to D.A.R.D. officials as he had already been banned from keeping livestock due to his previous convictions.
She said in 2015 officials from the department were concerned about the conditions of certain animals on Agnew's farm. On October 6, 2015, officials called at the farm to carry out a full welfare inspection of all the livestock.
"Upon inspection of the livestock inspectors noted two sows that were deemed to be suffering unnecessarily. They were described as being particularly thin. One had a large mammary abscess which had burst and the other had a spinal abscess.
"The DARD veterinary officer believed the sows should have received curative treatment or been humanely destroyed well before October 6 and that they were suffering unnecessarily.
"He explained this to the defendant and stated that now the only humane option to treat the sows was to euthanise them. The defendant strenuously objected to this and insisted that his own vet was called for a second opinion. This was done and she agreed that the sows be euthanised, which the defendant then agreed to. The defendant was invited to be interviewed on two occasions but failed to give an account", Ms. Chasemore said.