Judge orders seizure of livestock from land owned by ‘neglect’ farmer

Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC
Ballymena Courthouse. INBT02-213AC

A judge has ordered livestock to be seized from land owned by a Portglenone man previously convicted of animal cruelty offences.

District Judge Greg McCourt acceded to an application against Michael Agnew (44), of Ballynease Road, brought by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), at Ballymena Magistrates Court.

Agnew, who last year became one of the first people to be jailed under legislation which came into effect in 2012, denied owning or keeping the animals found on his land during an inspection on October 6.

The court was told that DARD officials carried out the inspection following an anonymous phone call from a member of the public where they found around 80 pigs, 30 sheep and 20 cattle.

Some of the animals showed signs of what the judge described as “neglect” and following discussions with veterinary officer from the Department, two sows were put down.

Agnew told the court that the animals were now owned by his partner and her brother, adding: “I gave them use of the land - I didn’t need it.”

The court heard evidence from various DARD inspectors and officials who said that on “numerous” visits they had made to Agnew’s land, the defendant had been present on the majority of occasions.

One official said that when he asked Agnew who owned the pigs, he gave him the name of an individual. When the official contacted the man directly, he said he had “nothing to do with the animals”.

A barrister for Agnew said his client “denies being the owner or keeper of the animals and is not in a position to object to the application or accede to it”.

Ordering the Department to seize the animals in a fit enough state to be transported from the premises, the judge said that the banning order previously imposed against Agnew did not relate solely to the defendant owning animals but also from participating in any form of their upkeep.

“It is clear from the evidence that Mr Agnew is heavily involved in the keeping of the animals and neglecting the animals to such an extent that some have had to be put down,” he said.

The judge said that his decision was an order relating to the application brought by DARD and was not a criminal conviction and he advised Agnew he could appeal the decision.

Agnew replied: “I have no animals so I won’t be appealing.”