Prosecution for hedge-cutting during closed season in Co. Offaly

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht brought a case under Wildlife Acts before Judge Catherine Staines in Tullamore District Court on Monday, July 20.

The case was prosecuted for the department by William Maher and the state solicitor for Co. Offaly Sandra Mahon.

The man was summonsed under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts for the destruction of vegetation on lands not then cultivated and on vegetation growing in a hedge during the statutory bird nesting season.

The offences took place on lands at Shinrone, Co. Offaly, on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 9, and 10, 2019, and involved the destruction of over 300m of vegetation growing on a hedge and on lands not then cultivated during the bird nesting season.

The defendant entered a guilty plea through the defending solicitor. Maher outlined the facts of the case and highlighted the fact the vegetation destruction occurred at a particularly sensitive time for nesting birds.

Judge Staines warned the defendant that the matter had serious implications for nesting birds and other wildlife and told him not engage in similar activity or come before her again on similar charges or the outcome would be more serious.

Judge Staines then asked for a €300 contribution to a suitable wildlife charity, payable by the September sitting of Tullamore District Court, in lieu of a conviction.

Conservation rangers Kieran Buckley and Colm Malone nominated Butterfly Conservation Ireland.

It is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts to destroy vegetation growing in any hedge or ditch or on lands not then cultivated during the bird nesting season that runs from 1 March to 31 August each year.

Commenting, Minister of State at the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Malcolm Noonan said:

“I welcome this prosecution as hedgerows are vitally important for our wildlife and contribute hugely to biodiversity.

There have been other successful prosecutions this year taken by the NPWS for illegal vegetation clearance and hedge-cutting in counties Laois, Tipperary and Waterford.

The minister added: “It is the department’s policy to prosecute those found in breach of the legislation, including public bodies, and any incidents of illegal burning, clearing of vegetation or hedge-cutting should be reported to the local National Parks and Wildlife Service Office or an An Garda Síochána.”

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