A man who appeared at a recent sitting of Longford District Court charged under the Protection of Animals Act received a suspended sentence following a hearing into the matter.
Bilgan Argana, Kilnatruhan, Killoe, Co Longford appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes charged with hunting a protected animal without a licence at Ballyknock, Kenagh, Co Longford on April 11, 2015.
The defendant was also further charged with hunting a wild animal on lands without permission to be there on the same date.
In her direct evidence to the court, Ms Moles from the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht and ranger with the National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) said that on the date in question she was in the area when she noticed a silver Passat car and a number of men walking along the Royal Canal.
“The men proceeded to take hunting dogs out of a trailer that was attached to the vehicle and walk along the canal,” Ms Moles continued.
“They made their way to a field where mares were heavily in foal.”
The court then went on to hear that Ms Moles followed the men up the field and noticed they had “several” hunting dogs with them.
She added, “I called the Gardaí and when the men came back to the car we spoke to them”.
Ms Moles went on to say that at that point the defendant denied he had been hunting and she asked him if a hare had been killed.
The ranger had seen the men open the bonnet of the car and place what she believed was a dead hare in it a few minutes earlier.
“I asked Mr Argana to open the bonnet of the car and he told me it was stuck due to an accident,” said Ms Moles.
“I explained to him that he had no trouble opening it earlier when I saw him, so eventually he did open it and there was the dead hare I had seen.”
The court heard the hare was subsequently confiscated and the men were asked who had killed it.
Ms Moles added, “Mr Argana said it was him and that it was his dogs who had done it”.
She also pointed out to the court that hares were a protected species in Ireland because of their scarcity.
“Rabbits,” she said, “are not protected because there is more sport in hares.”
The park ranger also explained to Judge Hughes that a huge number of man hours were used up trying to catch people who hunted hares regularly.
In his direct evidence to the court, Mr Argana told Judge Hughes that on the date of the incident a man from Galway put him “under pressure” to go out hunting hares.
“We went hunting on land that we didn’t have permission to be on; I know it is wrong, but I was under pressure from the other man,” he added.
In mitigation, the defendant’s solicitor Frank Gearty said his client was “covering up” for one of the other men involved that day.
“He is married to a Longford woman and they have twins,” the solicitor continued.
“He knows what happened was wrong and he wishes me to say that he will never do this again.”
The court then heard that Mr Argana had two previous convictions for a similar offence.
“This man appears to have learned absolutely nothing,” fumed Judge Hughes during his deliberations on the matter.
“Such carry on; I’m imposing a prison sentence.”
The Judge subsequently imposed a three month prison sentence but suspended it for four years.
He also ordered the defendant to pay costs of €635 within one month and fined him €250 in respect of each charge before the court.