Marie Staniforth wins appeal against prison sentence for animal cruelty

Marie Staniforth wins appeal against prison sentence for animal cruelty



Earlier this week we asked (again) the question of whether sentencing for animal cruelty offences is too lenient.

Well, on 8th October 2016, we came across another potential example (reporting on a Court case from the day before) – that of Marie Staniforth.


Facts and Sentence

Ms Staniforth, a 32 year old woman from Cumbria was jailed for 18 weeks nearly a fortnight ago for animal cruelty. She had been found guilty of neglect after Charlie, an emaciated lurcher-type dog was found at her address close to death.

Charlie had been left by Ms Staniforth for nearly a month without food or water.

However, the Crown Court concluded that the magistrates had not paid sufficient attention to Ms Staniforth’s personal circumstances – she has four children, and is pregnant with a fifth. In light of that, it was concluded that an immediate prison sentence was disproportionate.

They therefore quashed the sentence and replaced it with a sentence of 10 days (which she has already served). A lifetime ban from owning animals remains.



See what we have said previously for reasons as to why we think that the current penalties (a maximum sentence of 6 months) is not sufficient.

In this case, it is always important to look at the actual circumstances of the case, and in appropriate cases to do mercy to a situation. It would seem that this is one such case – there may be little sympathy for Ms Staniforth, but this prison sentence clearly has a large impact on her family.

In light of that, one can see why the Court concluded that an exception could be made for her. In fact, one criticism that could be made of the Sentencing Guidelines is that it is now too hard for Judges to step outside them and pass a sentence that is more designed to the individual offender.

It is not clear from this case whether there were any others made, but it is to be hoped that there was some financial penalty (if Ms Staniforth had the means); compensation to the RSPCA or another animal charity for example.


Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.


  1. I would have thought there could be an argument that the actual owner of “Charlie” could be seen as equally culpable if they left Charlie with Ms Staniford without ensuring she had the means / inclination to look after him properly.