€6,000 fine for destroying hedgerow vegetation and trees containing birds’ nests with eggs

Date Released: Thursday, September 9, 2021

On Thursday the 2nd of September at Carlow District Court, Mr. Brian O'Reilly, Clonagh, Hollywood, County Laois, pleaded guilty to five offences under the Wildlife Acts. The offences took place on lands at Ballickmoyler, Co. Laois between May 8th and 11th, 2020. Two of the summonses related to the destruction of fifty-four mature hardwood trees and twelve hundred meters of hedgerow vegetation, two more summonses for the wilful destruction of the nests and the eggs of protected wild birds, and one summons for procuring and paying others to take part of these offenses.

The case was taken by the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) of the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage and prosecuted by Mr. Brendan Curran of O’Doherty Warren Solicitors.

Outlining the facts of the case, District Conservation Officer Kieran Buckley of the National Parks and Wildlife Service told Judge Geraldine Carty that on the 12th of May, 2020, the NPWS arrived in Ballickmoyler to investigate a complaint that hedgerows and mature trees had been destroyed.

On the day of the investigation, they uncovered evidence that 1,200 meters of hedgerows, three and a half acres of vegetation, and 54 mature trees had been destroyed. Mr. Buckley then searched the vegetation and the trees for birds’ nests. Buckley told the Judge that they found the nests of blackbirds, blue-tits, song thrush, wren, hedge sparrow, chaffinch, and woodpigeon. All of the nests were destroyed. Two of them contained the broken eggs of a chaffinch and a hedge sparrow.

The court also heard that five Oak, twenty-seven Ash, twenty Whitethorn, one Crab Apple, and one Holly Tree were cut down. Mr. Buckley told the court that the scale of the damage was the most significant he had ever encountered in the course of his work for NPWS. He said that broken eggs and destroyed nests underpin the reason why vegetation is protected during the bird nesting season.

In summation, the Judge told Mr. O'Reilly that the court takes these offences very seriously. His actions represented an unacceptable loss for birds during their breeding season, damaged the wider environment, and did nothing to help combat Climate Change. The Judge found the facts of the case proven, and convicted Brian O’Reilly on all 5 summons (following his guilty plea)  and imposed a total fine of €6,000, imposed as follows:

Summons 1 - €3,000 (120 days to pay)

Summons 2 - €3,000 (120 days to pay)

Summons 3, 4 and 5 – Conviction recorded on each, but taken into consideration. Recognisance in the event of an appeal was fixed at €1,000 own bond and €500 cash lodgement. She told Mr. O'Reilly not to come before the court again.