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Convicted dogfighting gang walk away from one of NI's worst animal cruelty cases

13 March 2014

Thursday 13th March: Animal welfare charity, the League Against Cruel Sports has expressed grave disappointment at the lenient punishment handed down to the four men responsible for some of the most horrendous cruelty ever uncovered in the North.

Jeremiah Kirkwood, his two sons Christopher and Wayne Kirkwood, and Edward Morrow appeared in Laganside Court today to face sentencing after last weeks delay due a plea of mitigation on behalf of the men. All four have spent the past week remanded in custody whilst the Judge considered their plea. The charges included: Causing unnecessary suffering to four terrier cross puppies; Possession of a battery pack, lamps, a dog harness and a trap for use in connection with an animal fight; Keeping or training animals for an animal fight. Judge Donna McColgan sentenced the defendants to a six month sentence suspended for two years and a ten year ban on keeping animals. The guilty men laughed and jeered at police officers as they walked free from the courtroom.

The Charity had expected the guilty gang would receive custodial sentences as punishment for their horrendous acts of cruelty. The PSNI seized dog fighting paraphernalia and extremely graphic film footage of cruelty from the Kirkwood family’s Belfast home exhibiting the criminal gang’s sustained and systematic campaign of animal cruelty. The horrific nature of the crimes caused public outrage which included online social media campaigns, a planned protest outside the court house by animal welfare groups and public condemnation of the cruelty by East Belfast MP Naomi Long. 

League Against Cruel Sports Northern Ireland spokesperson, Janice Watt said: “We would like to express our frustration and disappointment at the leniency shown to the men who are guilty of some of the worst animal cruelty ever seen in N. Ireland. The lack of a custodial sentence has sent out a message that people involved in this type of despicable cruelty can get off with a slap on the wrist. We also believe they should have received a lifetime ban from keeping animals instead of just ten years; it simply isn’t good enough. 

“The PSNI worked extremely hard to bring this case to court in the hope of getting justice for the countless animals who suffered at the hands of this gang. Cases like this need to utilise the full force of the law to deter anyone who participates in the horrifically barbaric and illegal activity of animal fighting. Sadly, the unique opportunity to make an example of these cruel individuals has passed and essentially made a mockery of our judicial system."

ENDS

Notes to Editors

  • Dog fighting takes places when two dogs are pitched against each other, usually for entertainment or sport. Animal fighting, including badger baiting, is an offence under Section 8 of the Welfare of Animals Act NI 2011. However, enforcement agencies have reported a 400% increase in dog fighting cases in recent years across the UK. The other side of dogs being used to fight is their use against other animals, in particular wildlife such as foxes and badgers, although any animal can be used.
  • The League Against Cruel Sports is a registered charity that brings together people who care about animals. Like the majority of the public, we believe that cruelty to animals in the name of sport has no place in modern society. Registered charity number 1095234.
  • Please contact Janice Watt, League Northern Ireland representative on 07881 307655.  Alternatively please contact the League’s Press Office on 01483 524 250 (24hrs) with any queries or interview requests or email press@league.org.uk