29 Sept 2022

Carlow man jailed for animal cruelty 'on suicide watch' in prison granted early date for appeal

Kavanagh was not in court for the procedural matter

Carlow Carlow Carlow

Court of Appeal, Dublin

A Carlow man jailed for “inexcusable” cruelty to animals has been given an early date to appeal against the severity of his three year prison sentence. 

James Kavanagh (48) pleaded guilty to 30 counts of causing or allowing animal cruelty at his property at Raheenleigh, Myshall, Co Carlow in April 2015. 

Carlow Circuit Court heard that the charges related to 63 animals. Gardaí and animal welfare officers found a number of dead dogs and horses, as well as dogs feedings on the carcasses of horses, when they inspected Kavanagh’s dog breeding premises at Myshall. 

The court heard that 340 dogs and 11 horses were removed from Kavanagh’s property after the inspection. Four horses and 20 dogs had to be euthanised due to their condition. 

Kavanagh was sentenced to three years imprisonment and ordered to pay €35,000  towards the ISPCA’s costs by Judge James McCourt on February 22 last.

His wife, Jennifer Kavanagh, was given a wholly suspended 12 months sentence on the same occasion after she admitted 30 counts of allowing animal cruelty. 

Kavanagh’s lawyers were before the Court of Appeal on Friday morning seeking bail pending an appeal against the severity of his sentence. They were given an early date for hearing instead. 

His barrister, Colman Cody SC, said there was “urgency” to his application arising out of tragic circumstances that “seem to be unfolding with each passing day”.

Mr Cody said Kavanagh’s teenage son was tragically killed in a road traffic accident shortly after his client went into custody. Kavanagh was given compassionate leave to attend the funeral, he said. 

Following the death of their son, he said Jennifer Kavanagh "had to be sedated" and admitted to hospital.

He said his client was on suicide watch in the Midlands Prison and had to be moved from his original cell to the sex offenders wing. 

He said the family were subjected to "vitriolic online abuse" which "compounded" the difficulties and tragedy for the family.

In James Kavanagh’s absence, Mr Cody said it fell on Jennifer Kavanagh to look after the farm and his elderly mother.

In these tragic circumstances, he said it was "reasonable and necessary" for him to be home to look after his wife, children and farm "at least until things have settled down".

Mr Cody said he had identified a number of discrete grounds of appeal, although draft submissions were yet to be finalised. 

He said the Circuit Court judge imposed a straight three year sentence, and failed to suspend any portion of it, without due regard to the mitigating factors. He said the Circuit Court judge also failed to set a headline sentence. 

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice George Birmingham said he knew nothing of the facts of the case. He directed that the transcript of the sentence hearing be prepared quickly. 

He set March 19 next as the date for an early hearing of Kavanagh’s sentence appeal. 

Solicitor Patrick Geraghty, for the DPP, told the court that a ten minute video from the farm was played in the Circuit Court and a booklet of photos was provided for the benefit of the sentencing judge.

Mr Geraghty said the DPP wished to play the video and provide the photos to the three-judge court on the day of Kavanagh's hearing.

Kavanagh, who was on legal aid in the Circuit Court, was granted legal aid on the same terms for his appeal. 

He was not in court for the procedural matter. 

Mr Cody told Carlow Circuit Criminal Court that the offence was “grim” and “inexcusable”. 

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