Four men found guilty of animal abuse in Ireland have been freed after the presiding judge suspended their sentence for two years.
Jeremiah Kirkwood, his sons Chris and Wayne Kirkwood, and Jamie Morrow admitted to kidnapping family pets and staging vicious animal attacks for entertainment purposes.
All four men pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty and were convicted.
The men were sentenced to six months in prison -- suspended for two years. They are also prohibited from keeping, owning, or controlling animals for 10 years.
Due to the suspension, all four men walked out of court as if free men last week.
"The judge in this case has failed to send out a clear message that society will no longer tolerate the torture of animals. This sentence should be immediately referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for review on the basis that it is too lenient given the very disturbing facts,” said Stormant justice committee member Jim Wells.
The animal cruelty charges against the men were brought about when videos of their animal fights were discovered. The videos showed cats and badgers being mauled to death by various vicious animals. Those watching in the background, including the accused, could be heard laughing and cheering.
Police and animal rights charities described the abuse as “some of the worst they have ever encountered,” reports the Belfast Telegraph.
In one video, a man is seen climbing a tree after a scared cat, causing it to fall to the ground, and be slaughtered by waiting dogs.
A search of the Kirkwood home revealed animals, mostly dogs, in unhealthy conditions with scars from fighting. The dogs were bred to be aggressive, and kidnapped cats were used to instigate their violent tendencies.
When leaving court after the announced suspension, the men had smirks on their faces, and waved at the police, onlookers, and animal rights activists that were waiting outside. Some of them even raised their hands in victory, reports the Inquisitr.
In reaction to the six-month prison sentence and subsequent suspension, PSNI Detective Inspector Pete Mullan responded by saying, “We fully respect the decision of the court but are disappointed nonetheless. This type of crime can receive a custodial sentence of up to two years, and given the horrific nature of this particular incident we would have envisaged a sentence that would have acted as a greater deterrent."