It’s often said that Brits love their animals more than other humans. If you want to get on the wrong side of the British public, then hurt an animal. If you really want to be seen as the lowest of the low, kill a kitten.
Step forward Norman Wilson, who received a suspended sentence on 29th June 2016.
The police were called to Mr Norman’s address on 23rd December last year where they found ‘Tiny Tim’ – an 11 week old ginger tom suffering blunt force trauma – head and abdominal injuries.
Tim was taken to the veterinary hospital where, unfortunately, his injuries were such that he had to be put down.
The injuries were ‘non-accidental’ – possibly inflicted by one of Mr Norman and his wife, Caroline Wilson.
Mr Norman, presumably by the sentence the prime mover, was sentenced to 10 weeks, suspended for a year on condition of completing a 20 day rehabilitation order. He was ordered to pay £425 costs (and presumably the Surcharge).
Ms Wilson got a 12 month Conditional Discharge and was ordered to pay £200 costs.
Offence and Sentence
Both were charged with an offence under s9 Animal Welfare Act 2006 (thank you to the Crawley News for actually reporting the offence – it shouldn’t be too much to ask, but surprisingly few news sources do).
This creates an offence if someone fails to take “such steps as are reasonable in all the circumstances to ensure that the needs of an animal for which he is responsible are met to the extent required by good practice“.
One of the needs is the “need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease“.
The maximum sentence for this offence is 6 months imprisonment. The Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines are of help (see page 22). Allowing for a plea of guilty, this would seem to be towards the bottom end of the highest category – prolonged cruelty or an attempt to kill/torture the animal.
Without knowing exactly what happened, it is hard to comment on the sentence, but it doesn’t look out of line with what you’d expect.
There is a power to prohibit someone convicted of an Animal Cruelty offence from (amongst other things) owning an animal. This is a discretionary order which depends on all the circumstances of the offence and the offender. It seems that it was not felt to be necessary in Mr Norman’s case.
Are sentences for animal cruelty too short?
A lot of people think so – see here for our piece on this last year.
It is perhaps surprising that no politician has tried to ride a wave of populism and suggest that sentences are upped – perhaps to, say, 2 years?
It would mean that the offence is either-way and therefore someone charged with it could elect trial by jury. It would probably lead to increased costs (Crown Court cases are more expensive and prison ain’t cheap).
Having said that, I suspect it’s only a matter of time before it happens.