Judge directs jury to acquit in animal cruelty trial

A fox
A fox

AN east Belfast man has been acquitted of animal cruelty charges by the direction of a senior judge.

Neil Frederick Pinkerton (30), of Clandeboye Street, had been on trial at Belfast Crown Court where he denied causing unnecessary suffering to a fox and a terrier dog on December 28, 2016.

He further denied a third charge of causing the terrier unnecessary suffering by failing to treat or get it “adequate’’ veterinary treatment on January 25, 2017, when the dog was seized by police at his home a month after the animals were filmed fighting.

During his one day trial, the prosecution showed the jury of seven men and five women two short video clips of the animals engaged in fighting.

The first was a film of the fox fighting underground with the black and tan terrier. According to the prosecution, The second clip, which last less than 12 seconds, showed the animals as being “locked together...muzzle to muzzle or jaw to jaw’’.

At the end of the prosecution case today, defence counsel Neil Connor QC made an application to Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland in the absence of the jury to direct the jury to acquit the defendant.

Judge McFarland said he had considered the evidence by the prosecution and also submission from the defence.

He told the jury: “My duty is to deal with the law and your job is to deal with the facts.

“At the end of the prosecution case it is my duty to review the evidence to see if I should continue and prevent a miscarriage of justice.”

The judge said that it was clear from the video clip that the fox had the dog by the muzzle and “no suffering was caused to the fox’’.

The Belfast Recorder said that in the evidence of veterinary surgeon Dr Cahir King, who examined the dog after it was seized on January 25, 2017, he said the dog would have been in “discomfort”.

The vet also said that the animals could have been separated by a shot from a gun, a spade to the vertebrae of the fox or a metal bar could have been put in the mouth of the fox to release its grip on the dog.

But Judge McFarland said that in his view neither of these suggestions was feasible given the short period of time the fox and the dog were attached at the muzzle.

The Belfast Recorder said that for his reasons give, he was directing of the foreperson of the jury to acquit Pinkerton on all three charges.

He told the defendant: “You are free to go Mr Pinkerton.”