A Kilkenny man convicted of dangerous driving and animal cruelty was fined and disqualified from driving at Carlow District Court today.
Francis O’Reilly, 3 St Mary’s Avenue, Hebron Road, Kilkenny was convicted of the offences which took place on the Ring Road in Kilkenny last January.
Earlier this month at Kilkenny District Court Sergeant Niall Bambrick gave evidence that on January 16, 2021 he was on checkpoint duty in Kilkenny when a motorist stopped and told gardaí that there was a horse and trap travelling on the Old Dublin Road in a dangerous manner with no light on the horse or the trap and that there were three people on the trap and it ‘was weaving in and out and not allowing traffic to pass’.
Following this gardaí went towards the Old Dublin Road and at Leggettsrath they observed a sulky with three people, none of whom had reflective lighting. It was 6.30pm. Gardaí signalled for the sulky and pony to stop and they failed to stop.
“I activated the blue light in the van and I expected them to stop but they didn’t. They were using all their power to get away. I feared for the safety of the sulky and for other road users. I drove alongside the sulky and directed them to stop but they failed to stop,” he said.
The sergeant told the court that one of the males said that they were going to St Mary’s site and the other two males tried to conceal their faces. Gardaí drove the garda van past the pony and trap in an attempt to slow it down. The pony and trap then came out in the centre of the road in an attempt to pass the garda van.
The court heard that there was a car coming in the opposite direction which had to take evasive action and pull in to avoid a collision. The garda van then went to the opposite side of the road and stopped the sulky.
Sgt Bambrick gave evidence that as the sulky was coming to a halt one man fled. One man got off and walked and the driver stood beside the sulky momentarily.
“I spoke to the person driving the sulky and he gave his name as Patrick Reilly. He was not known to me,” said the sergeant who told the court that at the time he was also trying to control the horse.
“A passing youth at the scene referred to the driver as Francis. He then fled and I was left with the pony and the sulkie.”
The pony was seized by gardaí and remains in the care of a horse rescue.
“I have no doubt only for the gardaí’s actions on the night there would have been serious injury to the pony or the persons on the sulky or to other road users,” said the sergeant who said that he subsequently observed the defendant, Francis O’Reilly on January 29, 2021 on the same sulky with a different pony.
The sergeant also outlined how on February 24, 2021 he was on patrol in the Hebron area and spoke to a male who gave his name as Francis O’Reilly, 3 St Mary’s, Hebron, Kilkenny. “I have absolutely no doubt that the person driving the sulky on the night in question was Francis O’Reilly.
“My view is that they drove the horse as hard as they could to get away from gardaí,” the sergeant said, adding that the horse appeared to be malnourished and had been driven at oncoming traffic.
Garda James McNamara also gave evidence. On the date in question he had been working at a Covid checkpoint at Templemartin. At 6.30pm a vehicle approached the gardaí and the occupant informed gardaí that he had observed a sulky been driven erratically on the Old Dublin Road.
Garda McNamara gave evidence that at the Ring Road at Leggettsrath he observed a horse and sulky ‘coming towards us’. Gardaí activated their lights but the driver failed to stop and drove parallel to the garda van.
“I yelled at them to stop but they failed to do so. I observed Francis O’Reilly in the centre driving the horse,” he said and said that Sgt Bambrick had to pull the van in front of the sulky to stop them.
The garda said that he had observed the sulky being driven down the wrong side of the road and that oncoming vehicles had to take evasive ation to avoid the horse and sulky. He also told the court that he had observed the defendant run off and that the horse was seized and brought to My Lovely Horse Rescue.
Vet John Drum gave evidence that he examined the horse at the rescue on January 18 and made a report. He said the horse ‘was around a year old’ and ‘wasn’t starving but was quite thin’.
“He was shod on four foot, that would be unusual for a horse of that age,” he said and remarked that the animal had lesions on his lips and was ‘clipped in a haphazard way’ in winter.
“I would think that the horse was doing too much work for their age. I was concerned that the horse was very young for the work he was doing. He was definitely underfed for the amount of work he was doing.”
Farrier Gerry Murtagh said that he had seen the horse on January 18 and described the animal, which he thought was a yearling, as being ‘in poor condition’.
“The horse had practically given up in my opinion,” he said.
The case was heard before Judge Cephas Power who convicted the defendant earlier today on both counts. He convicted the defendant of animal cruelty and fined him €500 and said that the horse was not to be returned to the defendant. In relation to the dangerous driving charge he convicted O'Reilly and imposed a two-year disqualification order and fined him a further €400.
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