A judge has fined two neighbouring landowners €4,000 for destroying hedgerows contrary to the provisions of the Wildlife Act.
Brian Mc Sweeney of Monnatagart, Donoughmore, Co. Cork and his neighbour, Aidan O’Shea of Kilmartin Lower, appeared at a recent sitting of Macroom District Court.
After receiving a report of hedgerow destruction from a member of the public, an investigating conservation ranger of the NPWS, went to lands at Kilmartin Lower, Donoughmore, Co. Cork on August 6th, 2020.
He established that the landowners were Mc Sweeney and O’Shea.
The conservation ranger’s investigation determined the following has been “completely removed”:
- Over 1,000 metres of hedgerow, including several mature trees, on Mr McSweeney’s land;
- 170 metres of hedgerow on Mr O’Shea’s land.
The NPWS of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage took the case.
It was prosecuted by Mr Brendan Kelly. B.L. and Mr John Brosnan, State Solicitor of John Brosnan & Co. Solicitors, Youghal, Co. Cork on behalf of the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
The charges related to what Judge McNulty characterised in court as “the serious destruction of hedgerows which was both extensive and total”.
Section 40 of the Wildlife Act prohibits the cutting, grubbing or destruction of hedgerows from March 1st to August 31st.
It aims to protect the habitat farmland birds use most during the critical time that birds are nesting and rearing fledglings.
Also, it aims to protect the wide-ranging biodiversity from wildflowers to insects that occupy this important farmland habitat.
Judge McNulty told the two farmers that they should be aware of the law in relation to hedgerow management and that the work was done at a time when such work was prohibited.
He further said that carrying out such work “showed no respect for nature and no respect for the law”.
The charges, to which the two farmers pleaded guilty, included using a track machine to carry out the destruction of the hedgerow. This is an offence under section 69 of the Wildlife Act.
The court heard that Mc Sweeney, when being questioned by the conservation ranger, “refused to answer questions about the details of where the destroyed hedgerows had previously occurred and suggested that the ranger should determine this from satellite imagery”.
This was the course of action subsequently followed by the ranger, which determined the extent of the removed hedgerow at 1,287 metres.
The court heard O’Shea did cooperate with the investigation and indicated the areas from where 170 meters of hedgerow was removed on his lands.
Judge James McNulty fined Mc Sweeney €3,000 and handed O’Shea a fine of €1,000 for his offence.
The judge noted that landowners, considering doing work on hedgerows or areas of scrub, including the burning of areas, should be aware of the law.
He said they should also be aware of the risks to their Basic Farm Payment incomes.
It is a condition of such payments that farmers adhere to the provisions of the Wildlife Act in relation to hedgerows.