Westmeath farmer sentenced for digging drain in conservation area
He was also fined for violating European regulations.
A Westmeath farmer has been convicted for digging a drain in a special conservation area.
William Murphy, 40, of Gillardstown House, Castlepollard, was prosecuted and fined €2,000 (plus costs) for breaching the European Communities (Birds and Habitats) Regulations 2011-2021.
The company he runs, Midland Premier Farms Limited, was also prosecuted and fined €3,000.
A special sitting of Mullingar District Court on Tuesday October 4 heard Mr Murphy using an excavator to dig a large drain leading from a wetland to the River Deel at Grangebeg, Raharney, Co. Westmeath in 2019.
The River Deel is part of the legally protected Boyne River and Blackwater River Special Bird Conservation and Protection Area. These protections support important habitats and species that are rare and threatened in the EU, including alluvial forest and alkali fen, salmon, river lamprey, otter and kingfisher.
Judge John Brennan heard from the National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger who presented evidence on the question of the risk to the river from the drain, in that it could still transport nutrients and sediment to the Deel River and in Due to the excavation of the drain, there was no longer a buffer zone to protect the river from possible pollution by the adjacent intensive agricultural land.
The ranger explained that the sediment can interfere with fish spawning grounds and the habitat of aquatic invertebrates which in turn support other species such as kingfishers and otters.
The judge was told that the defendants were aware that the River Deel was in a special area of conservation, but believed they were going to proceed with the drainage works as they had machinery operating elsewhere on the land at the time.
Judge Brennan said there had to be a level of deterrence because the Settlement was there for a reason.
The Court said there was still a risk to the river and in considering the sentence the Court had to take this fact into account.
Speaking after the sentencing, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform Malcom Noonan said;
“I would like to thank the hard work and dedication of the NPWS staff involved in initiating this prosecution, as well as the efforts of staff across the country who have successfully closed 26 prosecutions so far in 2022 and are advancing 43. others.
“I am once again reminding people that wildlife crime is a serious offense and the NPWS has never been more focused or more effective in dealing with it.”