Banned Letterkenny farmer back in court over animal fears

September 9, 2023

Concerns were raised in court over the presence of animals on land belonging to a Letterkenny farmer who has been banned from keeping animals for ten years.

The matter was raised at Letterkenny District Court, where Leslie Stewart was due to be sentenced over a breach of a court order.

Stewart, a 75-year-old from The Thorn, Letterkenny, was banned from keeping animals for ten years in September 2022 and any animals on his land were to be seized.

He was also given a four-month suspended prison sentence when convicted of animal cruelty charges that were described as ‘disturbing’ and ‘horrendous’.

A court sitting earlier this year heard how Stewart only handed over a collie dog after six visits by an ISPCA inspector on the morning the matter was due in court.

His solicitor, Mr Kieran O’Gorman, said his client was ‘admitting that it took some time to catch the dog’.

However, Ms Helen Johnson BL, for the prosecution, which was brought by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, told the court that a further issue has arisen in the case.

Ms Johnston said that there were cattle and sheep on the land when inspectors called recently. Two horses were also on the land.

When contacted by officials, a person who has been leasing the land said he had ‘nothing to do’ with some of the animals noted at the inspection.

Judge Éiteáin Cunningham said she was concerned at dealing with the matter in a piecemeal fashion.

“The court should look at the overall situation deal with this globally, it makes more sense,” Judge Cunningham said,

“The court has been very clear on the position and Mr Stewart has been given every chance to put affairs in order. It is a most serious matter. Every effort should now be made to get the affairs in order.”

The matter was put back for two months to enable all work on disclosure to be carried out.

In September 2022, Stewart was convicted at Letterkenny District Court after officers found animals in various states of distress as a result of Stewart’s cruelty. Those offences dated between May, 2019 and April, 2021.

Carcasses of dead sheep were found on his lands with dogs nearby. Stewart was also charged with keepings pigs in a trailer without enough water, keeping dogs in a van without water and keeping poultry in a small locked trailer without water.

Stewart previously received a suspended prison sentence and was banned from keeping animals for two years in 2016 for starving animals on his farm. Then, ISPCA officers found horses and donkeys starving with some of the animals having to be put down.