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Gardai 'were wrong to act on tip-off of horse cruelty'

GARDAI were not entitled to enter a premises on the basis of an anonymous call to an animal welfare organisation, a High Court judge has ruled.

The court heard gardai entered The Piggery, Megan's Lane, Mount Seskin, Tallaght, Dublin, on November 17, 2008, after being told by a Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (DSPCA) inspector of an anonymous call he received about a horse being stabled within the building.

They were accompanied by the inspector and one of his colleagues.

A summons was later served on Philip O'Driscoll, alleging that he failed to take appropriate care of 19 dogs at the site.

Mr O'Driscoll's lawyers had argued gardai were not entitled to enter the premises because they had no grounds, as required by the Control of Horses Act 1996, for reasonable suspicion of an offence or ill-treatment of animals there.

The District Court referred issues in the case to the High Court and yesterday Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan found it was not open to the District judge to find gardai had reasonable cause in this case to suspect an offence was being, or had been committed under the Act such as entitled them to enter the premises without warrant.

Under the 1996 Act, a garda, is required to have reasonable cause to suspect an offence is being committed. The Act precluded entry, except with the consent of the occupier, unless a search warrant was obtained from the District Court, she noted.