Minister Malcom Noonan congratulates NPWS on two successful wildlife crime prosecutions relating to birds
Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan, TD, today (16 October, 2020) congratulated the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) who secured two recent prosecutions for breaches of the wildlife legislation.
At Athlone District Court on 7 October 2020 four wildfowlers appeared before Judge Seamus Hughes in relation to an incident on the River Shannon at Clonmacnoise Callow, Co. Offaly on 1 September 2019. They were summonsed under Section 35(1)(b) of the Wildlife Acts in relation to the use of a live bird as a decoy in hunting wild duck on the opening day of the 2019/2020 duck hunting season.
All four men pleaded guilty to the charge through their solicitor. Sharon Mahon, State Solicitor for Co. Offaly, outlined the case where NPWS Officers, Robert Edge and Noel Bugler saw two live mallard ducks confined in a cage in the back of vehicles parked up near the river. On subsequent questioning of the four wildfowlers, they admitted to using the live ducks which they reared, as decoys by tethering them and allowing them to swim amongst their plastic decoy ducks in order to attract wild duck to the area of the river they were shooting over.
Judge Hughes found the facts of the case proven and the men made a contribution in Court of €500 to BirdWatch Ireland. Judge Hughes warned the men not to come before the Courts on such matters again. The four men were Anthony Coolahan, Boher, Ballycumber, Co. Offaly; Dermot McEvoy, Lemonaghan, Ballycumber, Co. Offaly; Dean Watkins, Ross, Screggan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly and Noel Coolahan, Cappagh, Ballinahowan, Co. Westmeath.
Section 35 of the Wildlife Acts sets out restrictions on certain uses of decoys, birdcalls and calls of wild mammals. It is an offence under the Wildlife Acts to use for the purpose of hunting any wild bird or wild animal, any live bird or live animal other than pursuant to and in accordance with a licence issued by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
In the second case, Mr Anthony Daly, Knock, Daingean, Co. Offaly appeared before Judge Catherine Staines at Tullamore District Court on 21 September 2020. He entered a guilty plea through his solicitor, Mr. Patrick Martin in relation to the possession of five unapproved gin traps contrary to Section 34 of the Wildlife Acts and also to the possession of four live goldfinches without closed leg rings contrary to Section 31 of the Wildlife Acts. The case was prosecuted for the Department by Co. Offaly State Solicitor, Ms. Sandra Mahon, instructing Mr. Rory Hanniffy BL.
The court heard an outline of the case from Rory Hanniffy BL and NPWS Conservation Ranger Colm Malone. NPWS officers accompanied by Gardaí exercised a search warrant visited Mr. Daly’s premises and sheds at Knock, Daingean, Co. Offaly on 13 February 2019. A number of items were found and seized by the officers including five gin traps – which are unapproved under the Wildlife Acts and four, live, wild, caged goldfinches and a selection of finch traps and bird holding cages. The birds were immediately released back into the wild following the search operation.
In delivering sentence, Judge Staines summarised circumstances of the offending and described it as an appalling breach of the legislation and expressed abhorrence of any form of animal cruelty. She then imposed a one month period of imprisonment in respect of the section 34 charge relating to the gin traps and suspended same for two years on condition that the defendant refrain from any breach of the Wildlife Acts. The court made an order of forfeiture of all items seized during the search of Mr. Daly’s premises.
Minister Noonan commented “I congratulate the NPWS on these two wildlife crime prosecutions. All bird species are protected under both Irish legislation and the EU Birds Directive. This week’s budget provided €29m for National Parks and Wildlife Service and biodiversity and it is my intention to pursue further the establishment and resourcing of a Wildlife Crime Unit within the NPWS in 2021 and the appointment of additional NPWS officials around the country to fight wildlife crime.” concluded the Minister.