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Jail cruel father and sons says animal charity

A charity last night called for jail terms and lifetime bans on keeping animals for a father and two sons who admitted shocking cruelty offences.

Jeremiah Kirkwood (43) and his sons christopher (23) and Wayne (20) originally faced a total of 15 charges but each pleaded guilty to three yesterday. The men, all with addresses on island Street, east Belfast, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to four terrier cross puppies in November 2011. They also pleaded guilty to possession of items for use in connection with an animal fight, namely a CD7 battery pack, handheld lamps, a green dog harness and an animal trap. The father and two sons also admitted a charge of keeping or training animals for a animal fight on dates between July and November 2011, relating to four bull lurcher dogs. A co-accused, Jamie Edward Morrow (19) of Mcallister court in east Belfast, originally faced three charges. Two of these were left on the books after he admitted a charge of keeping or training an animal for a fight, namely a whippet cross Staffordshire bull terrier. Also appearing in the dock of Belfast crown court was catherine Kirkwood, also of island Street.

Wife of Jeremiah and mother of Wayne and christopher, the 43-year-old originally faced a total of 15 charges linked to animal cruelty and animal fighting. a jury was sworn in to hear the case, but a prosecutor said no evidence would be offered against her.

Judge Donna Mccolgan directed the jury to find catherine Kirkwood not guilty of all the charges and when they were discharged, she was told she was free to go. The police investigation began more than two years ago when horrific video footage was recovered from a mobile phone. Clips showed dogs being set on cats that had been trapped in a cage or shaken to the ground from a tree, in an apparent attempt to train them for fights. After the guilty pleas were entered, the judge ordered that pre-sentence reports be prepared for all four men.

She agreed to release them on continued bail but said "this is no indication of the likely outcome of the case", which will be heard before the same court on February 21.

US P c a chief executive Stephen Philpott, pictured, said the case "warrants not only c u s t o d i a l sentences but cries out for life bans from owning or keeping any animal".

"if the definition of cruelty is causing unnecessary suffering the savagery inflicted on innocent animals in the Kirk-wood case is wickedness at its worst,'' he said. Alliance MP Naomi Long also described the footage in the case as "horrific".

"By all accounts, it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty brought to the courts and it stuns me that people could be so callous towards the creatures involved,'' she said.

"i cannot comprehend the mind of a person who could bring themselves to partake in such appallingly cruel behaviour."

* COUPLE: Jeremiah Kirkwood (43) admitted three charges of animal cruelty. His wife Catherine, who also originally faced 15 charges, was acquitted after the prosecution offered no evidence. Right, items seized by police in connection with animal fights

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