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Man fails in bid to have horse cruelty fine quashed

Wigan and Leigh courthouse, where the original hearing took place
Wigan and Leigh courthouse, where the original hearing took place
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An equine enthusiast has failed to overturn a conviction for allowing three ponies to go lame at a Wigan farm.

But John Declan Ashurst O’Shaughnessy has seen a disqualification from keeping animals reduced from five years to two.

O’Shaughnessy was found guilty, along with his mother Lorraine Ashurst, of mistreating three young horses at Barlow’s Farm, between Hindley Green and Bickershaw.

RSPCA prosecutors brought charges in relation to a Palomino mare, a chesnut gelding and a grey mare, which were each found with injuries after inspectors visited the site off Close Lane.

But O’Shaughnessy maintained he had been looking out for the welfare of the horses and told a previous hearing at Wigan magistrates that he had signed over a number to the animal charity.

An earlier trial was told that concerns had been raised about a number of horses which had been left on the land, with some causing problems for motorists by wandering out onto nearby roads.

RSPCA inspectors left notes, after visiting in February 2017, before arranging follow-up visits.

The Palomino was found to have a foot abscess and laminitis, an inflammation of the hoof lining, the gelding had a left foreleg abscess and the grey mare had osteoarthritis in its right foreleg, the court heard.

Charity inspectors felt their condition had deteriorated as they had not been placed on a satisfactory worming regime.

However O’Shaughnessy, a mental health worker, told a previous hearing: “Horses have been my life and I have built up a reputation with them, giving advice and showing them.”

He told the court he had been looking after the horses following his parents’ split, when it became apparent the task was becoming too much for his mother.

When the RSPCA moved in he had been attempting to find potential new owners.

O’Shaughnessy, of Bolton Road, Atherton, saw an appeal against conviction and sentence, for three offences of causing unnecessary suffering, dismissed by Judge Timothy Stead, sitting with magistrates.

His sentence of 150 hours community service, with £1,000 costs and £85 victim surcharge, was confirmed by the court.

But his disqualification from keeping animals, which had been five years, was reduced to just two.

Judge Stead told him he must pay an additional £500 costs for the appeal.

His mother Lorraine Ashurst, formerly of Cameron Street, Leigh, who was found guilty of the same offences at trial, failed to attend the original magistrates court hearing for sentence.

Court officials have confirmed that a warrant is still outstanding for her arrest.

The RSPCA has previously been granted a deprivation order, forcing the family to sign over the outstanding ponies to the charity.