Horse trader fined and jailed

A horse trader from Northern Ireland was fined £13,500 at Stranraer Sheriff Court on Tuesday after he was found guilty, after a trial, of causing suffering to horses and donkeys he was transporting.

Laurence McAllister, 56, of Kells, 
County Antrim, was also disquali­fied from transporting animals for three years after he was caught at the P&O terminal at Cairnryan transporting horses from Northern Ireland to Fife via P&O without the relevant documents on May 5 last year. He was then stopped at P&O again on June 17, 2011, when transporting 10 horses, a foal and two donkeys between Northern Ireland and Castle Kennedy, when one of the donkeys and a foal were unfit to travel, four horses were lame and a foal too young to travel.

The wagon used had no clean bedding and the donkeys were not secured in their stalls, with a wooden pallet leaning on one of them. The size of the stalls also prevented the foal from feeding from her dam or lying down. There were further charges of not allowing a brown female donkey adequate nutrition and treatment for scouring, chest infection, wounds, diarrhoea and a farrier for overgrown hooves; not getting a vet to treat a six-week-old filly foal who had joint sepsis in both stifles as well as scouring and diarrhoea and having 57 bottles of prescription-only veterinary medication in the vehicle. As the accused was unable to pay, his fine was commuted to a 12-month prison sentence.

Scottish SPCA chief super­intendent Mike Flynn said: “We welcome this outcome, which is the culmination of months of work gathering intelligence on McAllister’s activities.

“All the animals we found were seized and taken into Scottish SPCA care where they have been recovering from their ordeal. Some of the horses required extensive veterinary treatment for a range of injuries and illnesses.

“Unfortunately, a very young foal that was being transported with his mother had to be put to sleep despite having undergone lengthy specialist veterinary treatment.

“We will ensure that all the surviving animals will be found loving homes with responsible owners.”

The Scottish SPCA expressed gratitude and thanks to procurator fiscal Pamela Rhodes, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and, in particular, the Ports Unit at Cairnryan ferry terminal for their assistance in this case.

The previous day McAllister had appeared at Edinburgh High Court where he was sentenced to five and half years after a trial for attempting to smuggle £500,000 of drugs into Northern Ireland in a horse box.

Along with his co-accused, 46-year-old Kieran Murphy from County Down, McAllister was caught at the ferry terminal at Cairnryan in April by a sniffer dog called Buster. The dog alerted officers to the large sums of money both men were carrying and a search of their horse box revealed nearly 25 kilos of cannabis hidden in hessian bags stuffed in the space between two horses in stalls. The bags also contained molasses used to disguise the smell of the drugs. The men had crossed on the Dublin to Holyhead ferry and had then travelled north to make the return crossing from Cairnryan to Belfast.

At the trial, Lord Uist praised the work of Buster who tipped the police off initially by sniffing out significant amounts of cash on the two accused – McAllister was carrying £6000 and Murphy £765.

The High Court judge added: “This was a large consignment of drugs, which indicates drug dealing at the highest level. The idea of using a horsebox for the transporting of drugs is a novel and an ingenious one, and whoever thought of the trip must have considered it a foolproof method.

“Fortunately, and thanks to Buster, that has proved not to be the case and someone has lost a great deal of money as a result of the police discovering these drugs.”