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Armagh pigeon fancier wins £60k damages after hunt hounds kill birds

By Alan Erwin

Published 16/02/2016

Pigeon fancier Maurice Weir leaves Belfast High Court after he was awarded damages in relation to hounds from a fox hunt destroying his racing birds. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Pigeon fancier Maurice Weir leaves Belfast High Court after he was awarded damages in relation to hounds from a fox hunt destroying his racing birds. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A pigeon fancier is to be awarded more than £60,000 in damages for having his stock killed by hounds from a local hunt club, a High Court judge ruled today.

Madam Justice McBride backed Maurice Weir's account that the dogs destroyed 59 of his racing birds and injured others after breaking into his premises in Loughgall, Co Armagh seven years ago.

She rejected defence arguments that it was a fraudulent and fabricated claim.

Mr Weir sued the Countryside Alliance over the alleged intrusion into his property by the Kinnego Grange and Canary Hunt Club's animals.

He told the court how he emerged from having lunch on February 7, 2009 to discover "a bloodbath".

Up to 15 hounds had broken into lofts and aviaries and killed pigeons highly sought for their ability to fly home from as far away as France, according to his account.

He said he saw dead and injured birds lying on the ground and in dogs' mouths. 

Mr Weir also recalled hearing crunching noises and witnessed two hounds pulling a pigeon apart as he tried to chase the pack off.

At the time of the incident he had planned to start up a small stud business at his Kinnego Road home, the court heard.

He sought damages for the killing of his pigeons, consequential loss, the cost of repairing his aviaries and a further payout for distress and injury to feelings.

Counsel for Mr Weir, Michael Stitt QC, claimed the huntsmen were negligent in failing to control their dogs.

Defending the action, lawyers for the Countryside Alliance contended that no hounds from the hunt came into contact with the birds on the day in question.

However, Madam Justice McBride held that Mr Weir was an honest and straightforward witness whose account was corroborated by others at the scene.

She ruled that the hounds had been on his property, gained entry to the lofts and aviaries and, on the balance of probabilities, killed the pigeons.

The judge confirmed: "I find for the plaintiff and award a total figure of £59,580 and £2,500 for distress and injury to feelings.

"To these figures will be added the appropriate interest on general and special damages together with costs."

The Alliance has six weeks to decide if it wants to appeal the verdict

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