Northern Ireland

Pig cruelty farmer gets ban and suspended jail term

DERRY Bishop's Street Court house
Image caption The court heard Agnew has 159 previous criminal convictions, nineteen of them for animal welfare offences.

A farmer with 19 previous animal cruelty convictions who admitted causing unnecessary suffering to two pigs has been banned from keeping animals for life.

Michael Agnew, 47, of Garvagh, was also sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for four years.

The offences were committed at his then farm in Portglenone in 2015.

Agnew was the first person in Northern Ireland to be jailed under animal welfare legislation in 2014.

Sentencing at Londonderry Crown Court on Tuesday, Judge Philip Babington said Agnew "should be kept miles away from every living creature."

"Any animal seeing this man coming over the horizon would have a heart attack," the judge said.

It was revealed in court that Agnew has 159 previous criminal convictions, 19 of which were for animal welfare offences.

He was known to Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) officials and had previously been banned from keeping livestock, the court was told.

Prosecution barrister Catherine Chasemore told the court DARD officials carried out an inspection at Agnew's farm on 6 October 2015.

She said two sows "were described as being particularly thin."

One had "a large mammary abscess which had burst and the other had a spinal abscess," she said.

'Animal carcasses'

A DARD vet told Agnew the animals were suffering unnecessarily and the only humane option was to euthanise the sows.

"The defendant strenuously objected to this and insisted that his own vet was called for a second opinion," the prosecution barrister added.

"This was done and she agreed that the sows be euthanised, which the defendant then agreed to.

"The defendant was invited to be interviewed on two occasions but failed to give an account", Ms Chasemore said

She told the court Agnew's previous convictions included failing to dispose of the animal carcasses of three sheep, one donkey, one horse and two cows and allowing live animals to access the carcasses.

On one occasion in December 2012 officials found numerous dead animals on Agnew's farm, she said.

A defence barrister said Agnew, a father of six children, was terrified of going to jail.

He had separated from his partner and only now only called at the Portglenone farm to collect or drop off his children, the barrister said.

"This was not a case of widespread neglect, it involved two sows. His record in terms of animal welfare is atrocious but this offending did not involve flocks nor herds", the barrister added.

The lifetime ban prohibits Agnew from ever owning, keeping, transporting or dealing with animals.

He said he felt Agnew should go to prison but that it would be detrimental to his children to impose a custodial sentence.

"Your former partner and your children still live on the farm and you want to have contact with your six children.

"But if you every have any have any contact with animals again you will be going straight to prison", he told Agnew.

Judge Babington also ordered the removal of any animals currently owned by Agnew.

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