Earlier this year Jeremy Wayle was minding his own business in Exeter City Centre, eating a hot dog, while a pigeon (name unknown), attracted no doubt by the smell of the fast snack, approached and started to take advantage of the crumbs to have a late lunch.
Mr Wayle (who apparently ‘doesn’t like pigeons’ which may be something of an understatement) called the pigeon ‘vermin’, stood on his (or her) wing with one foot, before using the other to stamp on the pigeon until it died.
Having pleaded guilty to this, Mr Wayle was given a 12 month Conditional Discharge on 3rd March 2015.
What was the offence?
It’s not reported, but we suspect s4 Animal Welfare Act 2006– causing unnecessary suffering. This applies to all animals, wild or domestic. It’s not illegal per se to kill a pigeon, but it is if the killing involves inhumane suffering (as stamping almost certainly would be).
*Edit* – we were tipped off BTL to another news report that states (thanks to John Allman for that) Mr Wayle pleaded guilty to ‘killing a non schedule one wild bird‘. This is probably a reference to an offence under s1 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – killing a wild bird. This is a summary only offence. There are no guidelines for this offence, but it may be that it is treated as less serious as the offence under the Animal Welfare Act (although it is hard to see why).
There are no specific guidelines for this offence, but there is guidance in the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines (have a look at page 22). It looks like it is in the most serious category, which involves killing an animal. This has a starting point of 18 weeks, with a range of 12 to 26 weeks.
Why such a difference between that and the sentence passed? It is probably due in part to the fact that this was an impulsive act, with no intention to cause undue suffering (note – I previously said ‘harm’ which was the wrong word). The top level of the guidelines seem to be aimed at people who are sadistic towards an animal, or who are making profit out of an animals suffering. We know that Mr Wayle has a history of PTSD which may have provided some additional mitigation.
So, although the sentence seems a very lenient one, it is an explicable one and a good example of the fact that guidelines are ‘guidelines, not tramlines‘. Having said that, I would probably have given a higher sentence – it’s the sort of behaviour that would warrant a Community Order to my mind.
Hopefully Mr Wayle ate his dog with ketchup at least. Having it with mustard would have been one barbarism too far.