Three individuals have been fined for out-of-season hedge cutting in the midlands.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government & Heritage took a successful prosecution against Helen Killian of Greenpark House, Ballinea, and two contractors, John Joe Heaney and Ronan McCann from Newry, Co. Down, and Clonaslee, Co. Laois, respectively.
All three defendants pleaded guilty. In this case, the judge imposed fines of €1,500 on each defendant and ordered each defendant to pay €635 to the State to cover legal costs.
Three separate reports
Peter Jones, state solicitor, presented the case. Conservation Ranger Therese Kelly of the National Parks & Wildlife Service represented the Minister and outlined the evidence to the court.
Ranger Kelly stated that on March 19th 2020, accompanied by her colleague, Ranger Tríona Finnen, she responded to three separate reports from concerned members of the public that hedges and trees were being cut at Greenpark House.
She told the judge that while on-site, she observed freshly cut hedgerows with excavator tracks alongside them.
She further stated that she cautioned contractor, Ronan McCann, on-site that day. The court heard that he initially denied cutting any hedges. However, Ranger Kelly saw a circular saw attachment in the back of a pick-up he was driving on further inspection.
Ranger Kelly explained to the judge that the circular saw could be attached to an excavator and could be used to cut through dense vegetation, including tree trunks.
She showed Judge Hughes photographic evidence and said she observed many tree crowns lying on the ground beside the damaged hedgerows.
Over 2,300 metres cut
Looking at the evidence, Justice Hughes asked her was it correct that 2,352 metres of hedgerow had been cut, to which she replied that it was.
Ranger Kelly went on to say that it accounted for about 93% of the internal hedgerows in the landholding.
She described the damage as extensive and informed the court that wild birds in Ireland rely heavily on hedgerows for breeding as we do not have vast tracts of broadleaved woodlands.
Mr Louis Kiernan, defence solicitor for Ms Killian, told the judge that his client was part owner of the lands and she was keen to “tidy them up” for sale.
Judge Hughes remarked that while some people like to see a nice neat hedge, it had to be cut at the appropriate time of the year.