By Aodhan O’Faolain

The High Court has set aside certain convictions and sentences imposed on an official with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) who admitted having dead and injured animals on his lands. 

The Minister for Agriculture sought the orders quashing some, but not all, of convictions imposed earlier this year on Bernard, otherwise known as Brian Kilgariff, who as a senior official with DAFM, had investigated animal welfare issues.

Last June the official was convicted before Sligo District Court of animal neglect and animal welfare breaches, and over his failure to have his animals tested for TB and Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) since 2016.

Allegations against DAFM official

The allegations against the DAFM official included that he had breached the 2015 Disposal of Carcases Regulations.

Kilgariff pleaded guilty to a number of charges relating to neglect or being reckless regarding the health or welfare of an animal.

District court judge, Kevin Kilraine, gave 64-yeard-old Brian Kilgariff of Bricklieve, Castlebaldwin, Co. Sligo a four-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, on each of the charges relating to the animal carcasses and the animal welfare charges.

Kilgariff was also convicted on the two testing charges and fined €1,000 in each matter. The convictions and sentences were not appealed, the court heard.

High Court review

In High Court judicial review proceedings, the agriculture minister, represented by senior counsel, Mark Dunne, said that the district court judge erred in law and acted in excess of its jurisdiction by imposing a concurrent four month suspended prison sentence in respect of offences concerning the disposal of animal carcasses.

The two charges he pleaded guilty to, Dunne told the court this week, were that on dates between December 16, 2019 and January 24, 2020 at Bricklieve Castlebaldwin Co. Sligo, Kilgariff allowed the carcass of a cow, to be on lands which a dog may have access to.

His actions were deemed to be breaches of the 2015 Disposal of Carcases Regulations, counsel said.

The maximum penalty that could be imposed for such an offence under those regulations is a fine, the senior counsel added.

The High Court was told that the error in that aspect of the sentencing was only noticed by the prosecution after the hearing before the district court had concluded.

As a result, the minister brought proceedings aimed at having the suspended sentences and the convictions in respect of the two breaches of the 2015 regulations quashed.

The minister was not seeking to have those matters remitted back before the district court.

Other orders

Senior counsel added that the remainder of the district court’s orders against Kilgariff, are valid and remain intact.

This includes the order under the 2013 Animal Welfare Act disqualifying him from holding a heard number for five years, which the minister says was lawfully made and within jurisdiction. 

The matter came before Justice Charles Meenan who said he was satisfied to grant the orders sought by the minister.

Kilgariff was not present nor represented during Tuesday’s hearing.

However, the judge said that he was satisfied from the evidence that Kilgariff had been made aware of, and served with, the relevant documentation in the proceedings.

The judge added that Kilgariff was not prejudiced by the orders sought, adding that the orders quashing the convictions and sentences were to his benefit.