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Family of six charged following UK-wide blitz on badger baiting

Six members of the same family and two other accused have appeared in court in Belfast charged with 200 animal cruelty-related offences.

The charges relate to a police operation aimed at tackling badger baiting and cruelty towards animals.

Appearing at Belfast Magistrates Court yesterday were Jerimiah Samuel Kirkwood and Cathy Kirkwood, both aged 41 and from Parkgate Crescent in Belfast.

They were joined in the dock by their four sons, Chris Kirkwood (21), Ryan Samuel Kirkwood (20), Wayne Kirkwood (19) and Gary Kirkwood (18), all with an address at Island Street in Belfast.

Also in the dock yesterday were Jamie Edward Morrow (18), of McAllister Court in the city, and 32-year-old Daniel Scott, from Tower Court, also Belfast.

The charges were brought following a raid on Jeremiah and Cathy Kirkwoods’ home and other properties in November of last year.

A number of dogs and equipment were seized from the property during the search.

A range of charges were brought against the accused, including charges of causing unnecessary suffering to animals, possessing equipment used in animal fights, as well as attending animal fights and photographing and recording fights.

A detective constable said she could connect the accused to the charges.

The officer also revealed to the court, being presided over by District Judge Fiona Bagnall, that three of the dogs seized have since been destroyed because they were self-harming. She added that an expert vet had been able to identify these animals from video footage of alleged fights.

During questioning by a defence solicitor, she claimed injuries to the dogs were “consistent with this type of activity”.

Pit bull and lurcher-type dogs, puppies and badgers were all referred to during yesterday’s hearing at Belfast Magistrates Court.

All eight accused were released on continuing bail.

Conditions have been imposed to allow the police to carry out checks on any other animals being kept.

The arrests were made as part of the nationwide Operation Meles.

It is aimed at tackling the problems of badger baiting or badger digging, as well as related animal cruelty offences.

Belfast Telegraph