Gavin Hope, aged 22, pleaded to an Animal Welfare Act 2006 offence and was sentenced on 23 April 2014.
The RSPCA prosecuted Hope for, presumably, under section 4 of the 2006 Act – that of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. We presume it is under subsection
(2) A person commits an offence if:
(a) he is responsible for an animal,
(b) an act, or failure to act, of another person causes the animal to suffer,
(c) he permitted that to happen or failed to take such steps (whether by way of supervising the other person or otherwise) as were reasonable in all the circumstances to prevent that happening, and
(d) the suffering is unnecessary.
The offence is a summary only offence, triable therefore only in the Magistrates’ Court. The maximum sentence is a £20,000 fine and/or 6 months’ imprisonment.
The BBC reported that the RSPCA Chief Inspector said:
“The video shows Mr Hope prepare a pint glass with lager, chilli, tequila, a fresh egg and fish food.
“He picks up another glass containing a small amount of water and the goldfish, which is swimming around, and shows it to the camera before drinking it down, and following it with the pint.
“A vet report advised that the stomach would be a completely unsuitable place for a goldfish and that the fish would have died in time, the cause of death being a mixture of suffocation and acid ph levels in the stomach, as well as the alcohol he drank.”
It was said that it was after the decision to flush the fish down the toilet that Hope decided to drink it as a part of the Neknomination craze and that the decision was impulsive.
Hope was fined £300, ordered to pay a £30 victim surcharge and £431 in costs.
The starting point is to look at page 40 of the guidelines. As usual, it can fairly be said that the offence does not fit into any of the three categories.
Whilst it was ‘one impulsive act’ (a descriptor in category 1 – the lowest category), it was also an attempt to kill – in fact it did kill – the fish (a descriptor in category 3 – the highest category). The sentencing range is from a Band B fine to 26 weeks’ imprisonment.
A Band B fine is 100% of relevant weekly income (range, 75-125%). Relevant weekly income is calculated from information provided by the offender on a means form, which they are required by law to complete.
In the event, Hope was fined £300. There is no information about his income and therefore it is difficult to say whether the fine was in accordance with the guideline. It is possible to say however, that the decision to impose a Band B fine – if that is the decision of the court – seems fair, considering Hope’s guilty plea. This is because to impose a Band B fine, the court would have started significantly higher than that level before giving a reduction for his guilty plea.
On a minor issue, the victim surcharge – a point often missed or incorrectly calculated by the courts – was correctly imposed in this case. Where an offender is fined, the surcharge is 10% of the fine.