Court Overturns Certain Animal Welfare Convictions Against Agriculture Department Official

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Some convictions and sentences handed down to an Agriculture Department official who admitted to having dead and injured animals on his land have been overturned by the High Court.

The Agriculture Minister has sought the orders quashing some of the convictions made earlier this year against Bernard, otherwise Brian Kilgariff, who as a senior Agriculture Ministry official investigated animal welfare issues .

Last June, the civil servant was found guilty in Sligo District Court of animal neglect and animal welfare offences, and failing to have his animals tested for tuberculosis and bovine viral diarrhea (BVD) since 2016.

The allegations against him included that he breached the Carcass Disposal Regulations 2015. Mr Kilgariff pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to negligence or recklessness regarding the health or welfare of an animal.

District Court Judge Kevin Kilraine sentenced Mr Kilgariff (64) of Bricklieve, Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo, to four months in prison, suspended for two years, for each of the carcass charges animals and animal welfare charges. Mr Kilgariff was also convicted on both counts and fined €1,000 in each case.

The convictions and sentences were not appealed, the court said.

Today’s decision

In High Court judicial review proceedings, the Minister, represented by Mark Dunne SC, said the District Court judge had erred in law and exceeded his jurisdiction by imposing a four-month sentence suspended prison sentence for offenses involving the disposal of animal carcasses.

The two charges he pleaded guilty to, Mr Dunne told court on Tuesday, were that on dates between December 16, 2019 and January 24, 2020, at Bricklieve, Castlebaldwin, Co Sligo, he cleared the carcass of an animal, namely a cow, to be on land to which a dog may have access.

His actions were considered breaches of the Carcass Disposal Regulations 2015, the lawyer said. The maximum penalty that could be imposed for such an offense under these regulations is a fine, the lawyer said.

The error in this aspect of the sentencing was only noticed by the prosecution after the conclusion of the hearing in the district court, the attorney said. Accordingly, the Minister initiated proceedings to have the suspended sentences and the convictions for the two offenses against the 2015 Regulations quashed.

The error in the sentences was only noticed by the prosecution after the hearing ended, the lawyer said. The Minister was not seeking to refer these cases to the District Court.

The lawyer added that the rest of the District Court orders against Mr Kilgariff are valid and remain intact.

This includes the order under the Animal Welfare Act 2013 preventing him from keeping a herd for five years, which the minister says was lawfully taken and falls within the jurisdiction. The matter was brought before Judge Charles Meenan who said he was satisfied to grant the orders sought by the minister.

Mr Kilgariff was neither present nor represented at Tuesday’s hearing.

However, the judge said he was satisfied from the evidence that Mr Kilgariff had been informed and served with the relevant documentation as part of the proceedings.

The judge added that Mr Kilgariff had not been harmed by the orders sought, adding that the orders quashing the convictions and sentences were for his benefit.

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