A Lurgan man involved in the handling of two dogs who were stolen to pay off a drug debt has been sentenced to four months in prison.
Dwayne Mullan, 35, of Dingwell Park appeared before Craigavon Magistrates’ Court, via video-link from Maghaberry, charged with one count of handling stolen goods, namely dogs.
When the charge – which was reported to have taken place between December 11 and December 19 2020 – was put to the defendant he pleaded guilty.
The Court heard that on December 12, 2020, police received a report from a third party claiming that she could hear windows smashing.
On arrival, police identified an injured party in an “intoxicated state”, who told them that Mullan had threatened to steal her dog earlier in the day as a result of a drug debt which he claimed she owed.
She claimed that the defendant had left but returned later with three other people and entered her property without her permission.
Mullan stated that he was taking her TV “in order to pay off the debt”, but he would leave the dogs. Another male carried the TV out of the house.
The injured party then said she left her property and went to a house next door. A short time later she heard the dogs barking and went home to find they had been taken from her back garden.
She was told that two men and two women were seen “carrying the dogs out of her back garden and placed into the back of a jeep.”
The person who witnessed this occurring refused to provide a statement, the Court heard.
The injured party provided a statement on December 18, claiming that she had “traced the sale” of one of her dogs on social media and the man who bought the dog “willingly returned it”. She refused to provide his details but said the man had been sold the dog by the defendant.
She was thereafter informed that the defendant had been texting one of her friends “who had offered to sell one of the dogs for him”, but wouldn’t provide details of this to police.
Police then found the defendant outside an address with another male, where they arrested him.
District Judge Bernie Kelly questioned whether the two dogs had been returned to their owner, “unharmed I trust,” she added, to which the defence counsel, Fintan McAleer BL, confirmed that was the case.
Judge Kelly added: “You have no idea the stress that the animals were put under in the process of being physically removed from what would be their home.”
The defence however, responded, “the charge is a handling charge as opposed to being responsible for removing them from the property,” to which Judge Kelly replied: “If there were no handlers, there’d be no thieves.”
Defence added that there was “substantial hearsay” involved in the incident and that the witness “wouldn’t be considered particularly reliable.”
He added that the defendant had “accepted his involvement” at an early opportunity and that “the police don’t recall or record anything in their statements in terms of any obvious ailments or suffering from the dogs,” adding that they were “well treated”.
Judge Kelly, before passing the sentence, commented: “This is a particularly offensive crime, to pick on animals who can’t defend themselves. These are live creatures and to take them as some sort of object is particularly heinous.”
To this end Judge Kelly imposed a period of four months in prison, which was giving the defendant a “fair degree of credit.”