Thursday 22 March 2018

Trial delay for youth accused of throwing rabbit in Liffey

Tom Tuite

A YOUTH accused of throwing a homeless man's pet rabbit into the River Liffey will appear again in court next week to face prosecution for animal cruelty and torture.

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 beloved 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.

Gary Kearney (20) with an address at Coyningham Road, in Dublin, 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 14th court listing today but Judge Cormac Dunne heard that Kearney was not present for the hearing. Defence solicitor Michael Kelleher explained that his client is serving a sentence in St Patrick's Institution.

Judge Dunne issued a body warrant to have Mr Kearney produced from the detention centre to appear at Dublin District Court next week to face the charges.

Earlier, gardai had handed over copies of the prosecution evidence including CCTV footage to the defence but Kearney has not yet entered a plea to the charges.

The rabbit's owner, Mr Byrne, who is originally from Ballyfermot in Dublin, had been 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.

His daring rescue of his pet rabbit was captured on video and went viral on the internet with clips on the You Tube website getting tens of thousands of hits.

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