Suspended sentences for dog fight trio

Suspended sentences for dog fight trio

A father and two sons from east Belfast who admitted animal cruelty charges related to dog fighting have received suspended six-month sentences.

Jeremiah Kirkwood, 43 and sons Christopher, 23, and Wayne, 20, of Island Street were each sentenced to six months in custody, which was suspended for two years, after appearing in the dock of Belfast Crown Court.Another man Jamie Morrow, 19, of McAllister Court in east Belfast, also received a suspended six-month sentence on Thursday.All four men, who were remanded in custody last week after details of their offending was opened to the court, were also banned from keeping, dealing in or transporting animals for a ten year period.During last week's hearing Mr Kirkwood and his sons Christopher and Wayne pleaded guilty to three offences.They each admitted causing unnecessary suffering to animals, namely four terrier pups, between 1 November 2011 and 28 November 2011.They also admitted ownership of items in connection with an animal fight on 27 November 2011.The items included a battery pack, hand-held lamps, a dog harness and an animal trap.The third count they pleaded guilty to was keeping or training four bull lurcher-type dogs in connection with an animal fight between 10 July 2011 and 28 November 2011.Morrow pleaded guilty to a charge of keeping or training an animal for use in connection with a dog fight, namely a whippet-cross Staffordshire, on 27 November 2011.We are very disappointed at the outcome. We fully respect the decision of the court but are disappointed nonetheless.PSNI Det Insp Pete MullanBefore passing sentence, Judge Donna McColgan warned friends and family of the four men that she would not tolerate any poor behaviour or disruption from the public gallery.The judge then outlined the facts, saying that on 20 October 2011 police searched Morrow's home on an unrelated matter and during the search, they seized a Nokia mobile phone which contained three videos, including one which was recorded in August of that year showing four dogs killing a cat.The Judge said it was her understanding that "dogs are blooded in this way in order to train them to fight other animals in blood sports including badgers, foxes and deer."Officers then searched the Kirkwood family home and at the rear of the property, they found several "well constructed kennels" in yard.Five adult bull lurcher dogs which displayed injuries consistent with animal fights were seized, while four bull terrier puppies were discovered under a heat lamp in a shed.The puppies, who were around three weeks old, were found without a nursing mother present and with their tails docked.Also seized from the Island Street property were items associated with animal fights, including lamps and animals traps.Veterinary medication which is used to treat animal wounds was also found in the fridge of the property.During a further search of Morrow's home, a dog called Princess was seized.Judge Mccolgan told the court that two dogs taken from the Kirkwood's home and the dog seized at Morrow's home were later identified as three of the dogs killing the cat on the video clip.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.League Against Cruel Sports NIWhen arrested, all four men initially denied involvement but subsequently admitted the charges against them.Judge McColgan told the court that the four puppies seized from the shed have all been rehomed at the direction of the USPCA.She also ordered that three of the adults dogs be destroyed by the USPCA.PSNI Detective Inspector Pete Mullan expressed disappointment at the sentences handed down.He said: "This type of crime can receive a custodial sentence of up to two years and, given the horrific nature of this particular incident, we would have envisaged a sentence that would have acted as a greater deterrent."

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