Pigeon attack case appealed

Pigeon fancier Maurice Weir. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Pigeon fancier Maurice Weir. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

An award of more than £60,000 to a pigeon fancier for the alleged slaughter of his stock by hunt club hounds should be overturned due to issues of credibility, the Court of Appeal heard on Thursday.

Lawyers for the Countryside Alliance are challenging a ruling that the dogs destroyed 59 of Maurice Weir’s racing birds after breaking into his premises in Loughgall, Co Armagh eight years ago.

They argued that it had been a fraudulent and fabricated claim.

Mr Weir sued the Alliance over the alleged intrusion into his property by the Kinnego Grange and Canary Hunt Club’s animals.

At a previous hearing he recalled emerging from having lunch in February 2009 to discover “a bloodbath”.

Up to 15 hounds had broken into lofts and aviaries and killed pigeons highly sought for their ability to fly home from as far away as France, according to his account.

He said he saw dead and injured birds lying on the ground and in dogs’ mouths.

Mr Weir also told of hearing crunching noises and witnesses two hounds pulling a pigeon apart as he tried to chase the pack off.

At the time of the incident he had planned to start up a small stud business at his Kinnego Road home, the court heard.

He sought damages for the killing of his pigeons, consequential loss, the cost of repairing his aviaries and a further payout for distress and injury to feelings.

Counsel for Mr Weir, Michael Stitt QC, claimed the huntsmen were negligent in failing to control their dogs.

In February last year a High Court judge held that the plaintiff was an honest and straightforward witness whose account was corroborated by others at the scene.

She ruled that the hounds had been on his property, gained entry to the lofts and aviaries and, on the balance of probabilities, killed the pigeons.

Mr Weir was awarded £59,580 in damages, with a further £2,500 for distress and injury to feelings.

But in an appeal before three senior Belfast in Belfast, counsel for the Alliance argued again that the hunt’s dogs were never on the premises.

Questioning the consistency of the plaintiff’s account, David Ringland QC said: “That will be part of the appeal in relation to credibility.”

The hearing continues.