Belfast Telegraph

Chaos after pepper spray released during dog cruelty hearing at Lisburn courthouse

BY PAUL HIGGINS

Pepper spray was released in a courtroom ahead of an appearance by two men accused of setting light to a pet dog.

Lisburn courthouse had to be cleared after dozens of people were overcome by coughing fits.

The incident occurred prior to Jamie Downey and Andrew Richard Stewart being committed for trial accused of animal cruelty.

Some sources said they believed the pepper spray incident may have been linked to the men's appearance.

Uniformed police officers stood inside the courtroom, where the public gallery was packed with people, some wearing 'Justice for Cody' T-shirts, while others kept watch outside the building.

Solicitors for Downey and Stewart told the court that they had received papers relating to a preliminary inquiry and confirmed the pair were aware of the charge against them.

Downey (22), from Chestnut Hall Avenue, and Stewart (22), from Wellington Parks, both in Moira, are accused of causing unnecessary suffering to Cody the collie dog on August 26, 2012.

Standing with their hands in their pockets, they told the court clerk they were not objecting to the preliminary inquiry, but would not be giving evidence themselves or calling any witnesses.

Prosecution barrister David Russell submitted there was a prima facie case for the men to answer and defence lawyers conceded the point.

Describing the case as "circumstantial", District Judge Rosemary Watters returned Downey and Stewart for trial at Craigavon Crown Court and, releasing them on continuing bail, ordered the pair to appear there on May 9.

In an incident which shocked and horrified many, Cody, a three-year-old border collie, suffered horrific burns to most of her body when she was doused in petrol and set on fire in the Maghaberry Road area of Moira. Tragically, despite vets' best efforts, she had to be put to sleep.

Earlier there were chaotic scenes as people were overcome by coughing fits.

The packed courthouse was cleared and doors left open to allow the irritant to disperse.

Police officers were heard to tell bemused onlookers they believed a canister of pepper spray had caused the problem.

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