A 50-YEAR-old bachelor from Skibbereen has been released on bail to appeal an 18-month prison sentence for animal cruelty.
Kenneth Coombes from The Carrig, Skibbereen, was sentenced to six months in prison on each of three charges – two of which related to the ill treatment of five ponies that were, in the words of Judge James McNulty, kept in ‘appalling conditions’ and ‘were near enough starved to death.’
Veterinary inspectors with the Department of Agriculture had to put down the ponies that Coombes neglected to provide with adequate food or water, contrary to Section 11 and Section 12 of the Animal Health and Welfare Act.
Coombes – who previously served jail time for animal cruelty, and was previously convicted of allowing dead animals to remain unburied on the 36-acre holding – contested the charges, but Judge McNulty convicted him of two offences relating to May 29th and June 5th 2014.
On Tuesday, Coombes was also convicted at Skibbereen District Court of a third charge of neglecting four dogs that were kept without adequate food or water on July 1st 2014, and the judge ordered that each of the three six-month sentences were to run consecutively.
The case against Kenneth Coombes – who was previously ordered by Judge McNulty not to ‘have, keep, control, mind, or manage any animal’ – was heard on November 24th.
Since that hearing he was held in custody in Cork Prison because Judge McNulty wanted to consider the appropriate penalty, and to allow time for Coombes to be psychiatrically assessed.
A full assessment was not carried out, but a short report indicated that Coombes had shown little remorse for his actions and saw himself as ‘the victim.’
Judge McNulty indicated that he wanted to adjourn the case so that the psychiatric assessment could be finalised, but the accused’s solicitor, Ray Hennessy, argued that in doing so the court would deprive his client of his right to appeal the court’s decision.
After imposing the 18-month sentence, Judge McNulty said he would release Coombes on bail to appeal the conviction, but he imposed a number of conditions.
In addition to his own bail of €100, the judge stipulated that two independent sureties would have to come up with €20,000 – €5,000 of which had to be paid into the court in cash.
Within an hour, Coombes’ 81-year old mother turned up at the district court with €3,000 in cash and Mary O’Sullivan – who is now farming some of the land at The Carrig – handed over €2,000.
Mary O’Sullivan – whom Mr Hennessy described as ‘the only friend Kenneth Coombes has in the world’ – said she felt sorry for Coombes on the basis that he has ‘difficulty understanding.’
Both she and Mrs Coombes confirmed that the bail money was lodged as a surety that the accused would attend Bantry Hospital for the purposes of being psychiatrically assessed, and that he would comply with the doctor’s orders.
Judge McNulty said the purpose of these conditions was to assist the Circuit Court judge in dealing with the appeal case as swiftly and comprehensively as possible. And he warned both women: ‘If this man does not comply with the conditions, you will lose your money.’