Four guilty of animal cruelty now in custody
Four men who pleaded guilty to some of the worst animal cruelty offences ever seen by the police and USPCA have been remanded in custody.
A father, his two sons and a family friend, all from east Belfast, were due to be sentenced on charges of training dogs for fighting and causing unnecessary suffering to four terrier-cross pups.
Jeremiah Kirkwood (43), sons Chris (23), Wayne (20) and family friend Jamie Morrow (19) all pleaded guilty to these charges, as well as ownership of items linked to an animal fight, in January.
However, judge Donna McColgan told Belfast Crown Court yesterday that she needed more time, and scheduled all four men for sentencing on March 13.
Sounds of sobbing and shouts of encouragement filled the packed courtroom as the men, who had previously been out on bail, were led away from the dock. Outside, angry supporters of the men physically attacked a group of photographers and hurled abuse.
The investigation into the men's activities started more than two years ago, when video footage was recovered from a mobile phone following an unrelated police raid on the residence of Mr Morrow in McAllister Court.
One clip showed dogs being set on a badger. In another, the same dogs were set on a cat that had been trapped in a cage, tearing it to pieces.
Although neither of the four men can be identified in the videos, prosecution said further searches of the Kirkwood's Island Street home revealed equipment used for blood sports and a number of dogs were identified by a vet as being in the videos.
At the time of their guilty pleas, USPCA chief executive Stephen Philpott described the savagery inflicted on the innocent animals as "wickedness at its worst".