We have looked previously at whether sentences for animal cruelty are too short, and it is clear that it is something that is of wider concern. On 24th July 2017 the Daily Mail published a news story of another possible example of this problem in action.
Christopher Boswell is a 73 year old, of good character and suffering from cancer and alcoholism (which explains the outcome of the appeal when we look at it later). He was a bird lover, and cat hater, who had attempted to turn his garden into a bird sanctuary.
This was not respected by all of his near-neighbours. One, Pia, was an 8 month old siamese kitten who lived with her human Caroline King.
One day Pia went missing. Ms King knocked on Mr Boswell’s door to see if he had seen her. He told her candidly that he had shot Pia with an air rifle and thrown her over the offence.
Pia was located and taken to the vets where, after £6,000 of vets bills, her life was saved, although she had to have her back leg amputated.
Mr Boswell appeared before the Magistrates’ Court where he pleaded guilty to an animal cruelty offence, saying that the offence was out of character. His lawyer put forward some substantial mitigation, but this was not enough to save Mr Boswell from an immediate prison sentence.
He got 12 weeks (against a maximum sentence of 6 months). In addition, there was an order for compensation for £1,500 (there was an application for £1,200 in outstanding vets bills and £900 for loss of earnings for Ms King). In addition, there was the £115 victim surcharge and his air rifle was forfeited.
Mr Boswell lodged a notice of appeal immediately. For reasons discussed recently in the Viscount St Davids case, he was granted bail until his appeal was heard on 24th July.
At that hearing, the appeal was allowed to the extent that the sentence of 12 weeks prison remained, but was suspended for 12 months.
Although we have been critical of some of the sentences handed out for animal cruelty, it could be said that given the personal circumstances of Mr Boswell, an immediate custodial sentence was not needed.
For that reason, we were not surprised that the appeal was allowed.
It is not clear how the compensation figure was arrived at, or what Mr Boswell’s means are. Also, it may be that Ms King had insurance that covered the majority of the bills. But failing that, it would seem a case where there would be little to be achieved by a custodial sentence and, if anything, a higher order for compensation would be appropriate.