By Noel Baker
A man has avoided a possible jail sentence in a case involving a dead cat, an attack on sheep, two bench warrants, and 11 dogs — three of which were apparently shot and one of which was poisoned.
Patrick Murphy of Coorycullane, Dunmanway, Co Cork, had been ordered to appear before Bantry District Court yesterday with proof of public liability insurance in the case dating back to the killing of a neighbour’s cat by stray dogs two years ago.
Different sittings of the district court this week heard that since that incident one dog has been poisoned and there have been claims that three dogs have been shot dead, while Murphy has been the subject of two bench warrants for failing to appear in court.
It all left Murphy, a farmer, facing the possibility of being jailed unless he produced adequate insurance yesterday, having been ordered to do so last Tuesday at Clonakilty District Court, where Judge Mary Dorgan described the situation as “a farce”.
On Tuesday, Insp Fergal Foley, prosecuting, said that, on September 24, 2015 a neighbour of the defendant awoke to find that dogs had killed his pet cat.
At a later date, the same person heard dogs near his home and followed them back to Murphy’s property. Following a complaint, the matter came before the court for the first time on July 26, 2016.
At that time, Murphy pleaded guilty to charges of not having a dog licence and failing to have dogs under control. He was fined €500 and legal costs for the local authority with respect to one charge, which were paid.
Judge James McNulty then adjourned penalty on the second charge as long as Murphy procured public liability insurance covering five licenced dogs that he said he wanted to keep, with four others to be rehoused or destroyed.
However, on September 2 last year, Murphy did not appear in court and a bench warrant was issued. On December 20, Judge David Waters remanded him on continuing bail and adjourned the case to January 17, warning him to provide evidence of public liability insurance and that four dogs had been rehomed or destroyed or he would vacate the initial order and impose a custodial sentence.
Murphy failed to appear in court in January and when the matter came before Judge Mary Dorgan on October 17 she adjourned it for penalty until last Tuesday. On that date, the court heard that three dogs had allegedly been shot by a neighbour when attacking sheep.
Also last Tuesday, Murphy’s solicitor, Ray Hennessy, said there had been a pay-out as per an insurance policy regarding a sheep kill claim that totalled €3,900 in April of this year, which showed his client did have adequate cover.
However, Judge Dorgan queried this when insurance policy numbers did not match up and when only one page of what appeared to be an older policy was produced in court.
In addition, Murphy said he now has no dogs on his property, as he had poisoned the last one.
“I have given the dog poison,” he said. “I haven’t seen the dog.”
Judge Mary Dorgan said she was appalled at this, adding that dogs needed to be put down in a humane fashion.
However, Murphy said he would not allow anyone with a gun to put the dogs down as he has other animals, including a horse, on his property and he did not want them frightened.
On Tuesday, Judge Dorgan said: “He must think we are all awful eejits and we are not.”
She ordered him to bring the correct documentation to court in Bantry yesterday or else face jail.
At yesterday’s sitting in Bantry, Murphy produced an insurance form and consented to a request from the judge that agents for Cork County Council be allowed to check with the insurance company that it covers dogs, and if so, how many.
The matter was then adjourned until a sitting of the district court in Bandon on December 8.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.