guilty plea  | 

OAP who, along with his son and daughter, left five dogs to starve in urine and faeces avoids jail

Martin Henry had previously been convicted of cruelty to horses only four years ago and had been handed a ten-year ban from keeping any animals

Martin Henry

Steven Moore

An OAP who, along with his son and daughter, left five dogs to starve in a house filled with urine and faeces has avoided jail.

Craigavon pensioner Martin Henry was handed a six-month suspended sentence at court this month having earlier confessed to causing unnecessary suffering to the dogs.

The 67-year-old had pleaded guilty in February along with his daughter Hannah Henry and his son Mark who it emerged provided no food, water or bedding for the desperate animals.

Despite their guilty pleas, none of them will have to spend a single night in jail, although the judge said he believed "there should be a more in-depth psychological examination of criminals like you who do this to animals".

Mark Henry was not even supposed to be keeping any animals as we can reveal he was convicted of cruelty to horses only four years ago and handed a ten-year ban from keeping any animals.

When we confronted the family, they claimed the death of their mother was to blame for their shocking treatment of the dogs and even claimed they "shouldn't have been dragged through the courts".

Hannah Henry speaks to reporter Steven Moore

But the disturbing facts which emerged last week in court about how their five dogs were kept in atrocious conditions tells a different story and many people will wonder if they got away lightly in court.

During sentencing this last week it emerged the family lived alongside the five dogs in a house filled with urine and faeces in one of the worst cases brought before the court.

In addition to the six-month prison sentence which Deputy District Judge Gerard Trainor suspended for two years, Martin Henry was also banned from keeping animals for ten years in a case the judge said was "shocking".

"The intentional inflicting and suffering of animals is, in my view, amongst the most serious offences that come before these courts at this level," said judge on Tuesday.

At an earlier hearing Henry, from Legahory Court, entered guilty pleas to three counts of being a keeper of a Jack Russell and two Shih Tzu dogs that suffered unnecessarily, and three charges of failing to ensure the needs of the animals on November 6, 2019.

In April 30-year-old Mark Henry and his 27-year-old sister Hannah, both of who had already pleaded to similar offences, were sentenced to 200 hours of community service and two years on probation respectively.

The charges arose, the court heard, as a result of an inspection of the Henry family home in November 2019 when a vet, police and council officers were confronted by "an extremely repugnant smell of dog faeces and urine".

The officials had been alerted due to concerns raised about the welfare of the dogs and when they searched through the "dirty and unkempt" property, they discovered the dogs had no access to food or water and had no proper bedding.

In addition, there was rubbish on the floors, the stench of faeces urine throughout, "soiled bedding" on all the beds and "faecal material" in numerous rooms of the property.

The inspection also uncovered a door had been chewed and that "the dogs had trodden faeces into the floorboards over a significant period of time".

The court also heard that the Shih Tzus' coats were both matted and they had "a body score of one", with skin infections and lesions on their tails, bodies and heads, while the Jack Russell scored a three.

According to guidance a score of one is given when an animal is severely emaciated with spine, rib and hip bones protruding, indicative of severe malnutrition or chronic illness.

Unsurprisingly, the vet "certified that they were suffering due to conditions that they were being kept in".

When confronted by us in February, Hannah Henry blamed the death of her mum for mistreating the dogs.

When asked why the dogs had been treated so poorly, Hannah replied: "My mum died and everything just went wrong.

"We shouldn't have been dragged through the courts; it was a really hard time for the family."

Her co-accused father then appeared at the door and said he didn't want to comment on the convictions.

When asked if they were concerned about going to prison, 67-year-old Martin Henry replied: "Jail was mentioned alright."

His daughter cut in saying: "He can't go to jail; he's not fit to go to prison. Look at him."

And last week a judge spared him the prospect of going to jail.

Defence solicitor John McAtamney said the defendant's wife had died a few years ago and describing her as "the glue that kept everything together," things "went to pot" after her passing.

He highlighted however that the house has since been cleaned and that Henry has shown remorse for what happened.

Imposing the suspended jail sentence and the animal banning order, DJ Trainor told Henry: "It is constantly a concern to me what is the mindset of any human being who can cause and then persistently cause such suffering.

"Very often I think there should be a more in-depth psychological examination of criminals like you who do this to animals and you should be in no doubt that you won't be doing it again."

In addition, he ordered Henry to pay £126 towards the council's court and legal costs.

His son Mark was particularly lucky to escape with a community service order as we can reveal he has previous convictions for causing suffering to animals and was already banned from keeping animals.

On that occasion, just four years ago in the same court he was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to ponies in his care and one horse had to be put down to prevent further suffering.

Those charges related to events in March 2016 when a concerned member of the public reported seemingly abandoned ponies on land at Burnside to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

On investigation of the complaint, an Animal Welfare Officer found three ponies belonging to Henry on wasteland near Burnside in Craigavon.

According to a council statement at the time they found one young, extremely thin pony was lying on its side in a distressed state.

Henry was fined £600 and was banned from keeping animals for 10 years. The magistrate awarded costs to the council of £1,950 and £17 court fees.

After the case ended the then Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson, welcomed the court's ruling saying: "It saddens me greatly to hear of cases of the mistreatment of animals in our society.

"I am glad that the court has reflected the seriousness of this case by disqualifying Mr Henry from keeping animals for 10 years and I am content that council continues to operate a rigorous enforcement policy to ensure that those who cause animals to suffer are brought before the courts."

Today's Headlines

More Courts

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos