A County Kilkenny farmer has appeared in court for removing 112 metres of hedgerow and grubbing at a further 180 metres on his land.
John Murphy, 68, with an address at Ballynaboley, Kilmacow, County Kilkenny, appeared before Waterford District Court on Monday, July 18th, 2022.
He pleaded guilty to the destruction of the growing vegetation in a hedgerow between March 1st and August 31st, contrary to Section 40 of the Wildlife Acts.
The offence took place on and around April 14th, 2021, at Ballynaboley, Kilmacow, County Kilkenny.
The National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage investigated the offence.
It was prosecuted under the Wildlife Acts by William Maher BL, instructed by Gerald Meaney, State Solicitor for County Kilkenny.
In his evidence to the court, an NPWS Conservation Ranger told Judge David Staunton that on the above date, he travelled to Mullinavat to investigate a complaint from a member of the public that hedgerows were being destroyed.
On-site, he found a machine and piles of vegetation which he believed had come from a hedgerow dividing two fields.
The ranger observed that some of the vegetation had fresh leaves on it.
Follow-up enquiries led him to Mr. Murphy’s farmyard, where he interviewed the farmer.
The Conservation Ranger acknowledged that some of the work may have commenced before March 1st.
However, most was conducted after that date and right up to the day he called to the property, he said.
The NPWS Conservation Ranger outlined to the court that the law protects all birds.
He said the removed hedgerow and grubbed vegetation from another section of hedgerow would have provided nesting opportunities for many farmland bird species.
The court heard that the bird nesting season is widely advertised and “commonly” known amongst farmers and farming organisations.
In summing up, Judge David Staunton considered the guilty plea and that as a farmer, Mr. Murphy was carrying out works to improve his enterprise.
However, the judge commented that “this was not the taking out of a bush or pruning back of a tree.”
He described the removal of 112 metres of hedgerow as “major activity”.
Moreover, he said that the work Murphy conducted was a “blatant disregard” for a piece of legislation.
He stressed that it was “important such legislation was not ignored when it suited”.
The judge convicted Mr. Murphy and fined him €2,000 with six months to pay.
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