What a headline!
Well, that’s exactly what happened. The Guardian reported on 28 September 2015 the rather shameful events that occurred at the ZSL Christmas party in 2014.
Well those taking the staring roles were:
Caroline Westlake (meerkat enclosure) – defendant
Kate Sanders (monkey keeper) – victim
Adam Davies (llama keeper) – the love interest
It appears that Davies and Sanders had dated for five years but had recently split. Following the split, Davies had begun a relationship with Westlake. Sanders, it is reported, saw the couple together for the first time at the Christmas party – held at the zoo – and made a derisory comment about Westlake’s appearance. The comments resulted in an argument that led to an altercation resulting in Sanders being struck in the face with a wine glass, causing injuries requiring stitches.
Sanders said: “I was hit on the left cheek and from the feeling it was a glass and had come from a low position. I was extremely shocked when it hit me. I tried to protect myself by reaching out my right hand and pushing her against the nearest thing to me, which was some railings.”
Westlake was charged with assault by beating – it’s not clear why this was not charged as s.47 (assault occasioning ABH) or s.20 (wounding/GBH). The injuries sustained would appear to suggest that an assault by beating charge was inappropriate and a classic case of undercharging. Westlake was also sacked from her position in the market enclosure. Sanders was banned from ZSL parties for two years.
Putting that aside, Westlake pleaded not guilty to assault by beating but was convicted. She will be sentenced on 14 October 2015. The assault guidelines will be relevant but as this is a summary only offence we know that the maximum sentence is 6 months’ imprisonment.
The interesting issue for the judge is how to impose a sentence that reflects the facts (the fact that this is a glassing) but staying faithful to the offence actually charged (and not simply “bumping up” the sentence because the judge thinks that the offence was under-charged. We’ll return to the case in October to see how he or she got on.
The guidelines (see p.23) would suggest a sentence at the top of the offence range: this is clearly an injury that is serious in the context of the offence and involves the use of a weapon. We don’t know the basis on which the prosecution case was put (was the glass used intentionally or had she forgotten that she was holding it, for example) and so it’s difficult to go any further. But on the facts as they appear to us, one would expect a short custodial sentence. Anything less will be a very good result for Westlake!