North-east man loses legal bid to secure donkey return – and could face criminal charges

Gary Stevens leaves Peterhead Sheriff Court.
Gary Stevens leaves Peterhead Sheriff Court.

A north-east man could face criminal charges and the permanent seizure of all his livestock due to welfare concerns.

Gary Stevens yesterday failed in a legal bid to get a donkey back from a national animal welfare charity and now faces a fight to keep his other animals.

Mr Stevens took the Scottish SPCA to court to demand they returned the donkey after it was taken from Hallmoss Farm, St Fergus, by welfare officers.

Concerns had been raised about its care, but at a previous court hearing, Mr Stevens said he thought it was “unfair” the animal had been taken from him.

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He failed in his bid to have the donkey returned yesterday, after a hearing at Peterhead Sheriff Court heard he had not answered the charity’s concerns.

Mr Stevens, who has been representing himself throughout the court proceedings, was absent due to ill health and did not hear the verdict delivered in person.

He could now face the loss of other livestock seized by Aberdeenshire Council on veterinary advice, with a further hearing to take place next month.

And the SSPCA confirmed yesterday it was looking to escalate matters, with a report provided to the Procurator Fiscal.

That could mean Mr Stevens faces criminal prosecution in connection with neglect of his livestock.

Speaking after the animals were initially seized from his farm, Mr Stevens was in no doubt they should be returned to him.

“It is fairly straightforward,” he said.

“The donkey was taken away by the SSPCA, but when they seized it the donkey was in good health.

“During all the time they have had her the care costs would have increased. If the donkey is returned to me she would still be cared for.

“I want the donkey returned. I think it is unfair they took the donkey.”

But during the hearing at Peterhead Sheriff Court yesterday his concerns were dismissed and the SSPCA was granted a so-called “disposal order”, which allows them to find a new home for the animal.

Solicitor Kevin Clancy, who was representing the welfare charity, had urged Sheriff Christine McCrossan to find in their favour and allow the re-homing order to go ahead.

Sheriff McCrossan said the 57-year-old had not provided answers for the case against him in time and found in favour of the charity.

She said: “Mr Stevens has failed to comply with the court and I grant orders in favour of the SSPCA.”

Last night, SSPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn welcomed the ruling and said they had also sent a document for consideration by prosecutors.

Mr Flynn said: “We welcome the court’s decision regarding the civil case.

“We have submitted our own report regarding this individual to the Procurator Fiscal and are awaiting proceedings.”

Mr Stevens is also demanding Aberdeenshire Council return other livestock that were seized following concerns over their care.

Solicitor Suzanne Ward, who was representing the local authority, said they were also looking for a re-homing order to be granted by the court.

That case was continued and will return to Peterhead next month.