A Castlederg man who shot dead a deer has been cleared of poaching on property to carry out the kill.
Dismissing a number of charges against Kevin Doherty (49) of Ashleigh Court, the District Judge at Omagh Magistrates Court said that suspicion is not enough and there must be evidence to convict a defendant.
Doherty admitted a charge of possession of four solid slug 12 gauge cartridges without a firearm certificate and was fined £250.
He was cleared of charges of trespassing on land, killing a deer without the consent of the owner or occupier of the land and illegally killing the deer between the end of sunset and commencement of sunrise.
A deer that had its legs and head removed and was gralloched (its innards removed) was discovered in the boot of Doherty’s Hilux pick-up in the centre of Castlederg on the night of November 1 last year.
DNA from the remains of the animal matched drops of blood found on grass at Lough Braden, Drumquin.
However while District Judge Bernie Kelly accepted that the blood was from the same animal, she said it had not be proved that it was shot at that location.
She also pointed out that despite the defendant claiming he shot the deer at another location, police did not bring blood hounds to that area to check out his story.
Police officers told the court they saw the Hilux parked in the Lough Braden area around 9.45pm on the night of November 1 and it was gone 15 minutes later.
Police searched it in Castlederg later that night and discovered the deer carcass.
An officer said the deer was still warm and there was steam emanating from its remains.
He suggested that there was no sign of rigor mortis and the carcass was “pliable and flexible.”
Defence barrister Brian O’Sullivan, instructed by solicitor John Fox, pointed out that the scientific test for rigor mortis is by checking the joints and this had not been carried out by the officers.
A police witness also stated there was a “fresh disturbance” of grass near where the vehicle had been found as well as “occasional drops of what appeared to be fresh blood.”
Mr O’Sullivan suggested that there would have been “far more blood” at the scene if the deer had been shot and gralloched and the head and legs removed.
The officer, who said he had extensive family experience regarding deer stalking, replied, “When a deer is shot in the neck, there can be very little blood left behind.
“It has not been established it was gralloched at that location.”
Dismissing the charges, District Judge Bernie Kelly said the case was ”circumstantial in all respects” adding that the various strands did not come together to make evidence strong enough for a conviction.
She added it was “almost incredulous” police did not wait at the scene when they saw the vehicle.
Judge Kelly said, “The evidence doesn’t tell me where and when the animal was killed.
“The blood may have come off the tyres or other parts of the pick-up.
“Surely when the police, who were dealing with poaching that night, saw the vehicle should have waited to see who came out of the area and what they came out with and where they put it.
“I have no evidence he was trespassing on lands where the animal was shot.
“He said he had permission from the owner and I have no evidence to the contrary.
“In short there is no proof.”