Northern Ireland

Portglenone farmer Michael Agnew jailed for animal cruelty

Animals kept in cruel conditions
Image caption Some of the animals were kept in appalling conditions at the farm near Portglenone

A County Antrim farmer found guilty of animal cruelty offences has been jailed for six months.

It is the first time someone has been jailed under animal welfare legislation that came into effect in NI in 2011.

Michael Agnew, 43, of Ballynease Road near Portglenone, was convicted of 16 charges at Ballymena Magistrates Court.

Department of Agriculture (DARD) inspectors found animals living in appalling conditions when they visited his farm in December 2012.

Carcasses of dead pigs and calves were found among live animals, and some livestock were crammed into sheds with no access to food or water.

Some had to be put down to prevent further suffering.

Extensive record

The judge described Agnew's treatment of the animals as a "very serious matter".

It was revealed during the hearing that Agnew had 115 previous convictions and was already banned from keeping animals when DARD inspectors went to his farm.

A defence lawyer told the court it was not a matter of wilful mistreatment but rather ill-informed and poor management.

He added that Agnew's intellectual capacity affected his ability to understand the meaning of a disqualification order.

The judge said the welfare of animals was of concern to the community

He told Agnew that he had an extensive record and had ignored previous orders.

The judge imposed a four-month sentence for the cruelty charges.

He also brought into effect a previous two-month sentence which had been suspended.

Agnew was also fined £2,000 and disqualified from keeping livestock for 10 years.