A GORTIN man who stabbed a horse four times during an incident outside Cookstown in 2019 has been jailed for seven months.
Mark McGurk (23) of Glenpark Road was also banned from having ownership of animals for seven years as a result of what was described by Judge Michael Ranaghan as an ‘evil act.’
Dungannon Magistrates Departmental Court was told that on the night in question McGurk and another man had been drinking heavily at a property at Gortreagh near Cookstown.
McGurk stabbed the horse four times in what was described in court as a ‘moment of madness.’
The Prosecution said that in the aftermath of the incident a vet was called to adminster treatment to the horse, which had sustained a number of puncture wounds to its body. A knife was observed in the area of the stables, which the defendant informed police had been used to stab the horse.
A second person contacted by police in relation to the incident was able to show them videos of the horse in question being stabbed, and that they had been sent to him by the defendant, McGurk, via social media.
McGurk was then arrested and his phone seized.
Defence barrister, Heather Philips, who as instructed by Conor Sally of Conor Sally Solicitors in Omagh said that McGurk felt guilt, shame and remorse in relation to what had happened, and apologised for his actions.
She said that he and another man had purchased the horse together for £600, and that he was someone who had worked with horses and other animals on the family farm throughout his life. Prior to this incident, she added, he had looked after animals without incident.
However, she then said that at the time in 2019 when this incident occurred McGurk was drinking heavily and using substances. Ms Philips said McGurk had begun to behave errattically and unpredictably and that his behaviour had ‘spiralled out of control.’
In the days prior to this he had been behaving in an ‘unusual manner’ and his actions were a ‘moment of madness.’
Ms Philips said that McGurk had begun to display remorse immediately, and this was shown by his actions in calling the vet and attempting to stop the bleeding.
However, the District Judge, Michael Ranaghan, dismissed claims by McGurk that the stabbing was a ‘moment of madness.’
He said the filming of the aftermath of the incident was an ‘attempt at revenge’ by McGurk.
“He says he has guilt, shame and remorse in relation to this. What else would you expect from anyone to not have those feelings given what he has done to that totally innocent animal who had the misfortune of being in his car,” Judge Ranaghan said.
“This was at least four moments of madness when that horse was stabbed to varying degree by the defendant. He attempted some first aid by putting his hand on some of the more serious horses wounds, albeit the blood is pooling on the ground beside this defenceless animal.”
Judge Ranaghan said to stab a horse repeatedly was an evil act. He said part of him wished the case had gone to contest because he could then have asked the vet about the levels of pain experienced by the horse.
“One of those cuts was very, very deep and I feel ultimately led to its death. I’m sure all of us are aware of horses – they are quick to startle and the act of being stabbed repeatedly must have caused that animal extreme pain, but above all extreme fear and distress. I canot begin to imagine how much that animal suffered at that tim in the days that followed this horrible event.
“There can be no excuse for this whatsoever.”
In addition to the prison sentence and disqualification from owning an animal for seven years, McGurk was also ordered to pay an offender levy.
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