Our attention was drawn by Matthew Bolt to the case of Alan Barnfield, the Doncaster man who was caught in 2012 in flagrante with a Shetland Pony named Sky.
He denied any wrongdoing, and was acquitted of having intercourse with Sky, but was convicted of Outraging Public Decency as ‘the jury were sure a sexual assault on the pony had taken place‘.
Sky suffered some injuries as a result of this and, in a slightly unusual feature, a victim impact statement was given. This was presented by Sky’s owner who said that Sky had “changed after the assault and she would avoid the area where the attack happened, ‘shake and tremble’ and kick out at people” before having to be rehoused.
Mr Barnfield was sentenced to 4 years in prison, with the Judge saying that “he had a ‘utterly disgusting perversion’.
Is the sentence too long?
Yes. Without a doubt. It is always hard working off a news report, but we can say here that unless there are other offences he was being sentenced for (and we’re pretty sure there’s not), the the sentence is certainly too long.
Although this offence is a sexual one, it is not covered by the Sexual Offences Guidelines, presumably because it is so rare that it is not needed very often.
The offence of intercourse with an animal is under s69 Sexual Offences Act 2003. This has a maximum sentence of 2 years in prison. The offence of outraging public decency actually has a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, but here it was clearly down as an alternative (and less serious offence).
It is a basic principle in a case such as this that sentence must be lower for the lesser offence. In the case of Hardy  EWCA Crim 2125, Mr Hardy had been convicted of outraging public decency for masturbating in public. The Court of Appeal used the Sentencing Guidelines on exposure in determining the correct sentence.
Here, the Judge should have taken the sentence for the full offence of intercourse with Sky and reduced it to take account of the fact that he was convicted of a less serious offence. We don’t know anything about Mr Barnfield, but we would have expected a sentence certainly no higher than 18 months. We would expect an appeal do succeed and Mr Barnfield’s sentence to be halved (at least).