We have looked recently at cases that raise the question of whether the maximum sentence for animal cruelty offences are too short.
On 18th November 2016 there was another example that perhaps this may be the case, with the sentencing of Bernadette Nunnery and John Wilcock.
Ms Nunnery and Mr Wilcock both ran a ‘puppy farm’, selling them for £300 a dog. They were advertised as coming from a ‘family home’, however when RSPCA inspector attended, they seized 43 dogs, finding them ‘living in squalor’.
They were living in stables and barns in overcrowded conditions. Also, many “had no food, no water, no bedding, and all of them were living in their own filth”.
Particularly harrowing for one Inspector was the sight of a live puppy in a wheelbarrow, buried under a pile of dead puppies.
At the trial, Mr Wilcock pleaded guilty to 5 offences of animal cruelty, with Ms Nunnery being convicted after a trial of 6 offences.
Both received the same sentence – 20 weeks, suspended for 18 months. Ms Nunnery received a 12 week curfew order and the suspended sentence had a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement attached. She was ordered to pay £500 costs
Mr Wilcock was ordered to undertake 200 hours unpaid work and undertake 20 days rehabilitation. He was ordered to pay £100 costs.
There was presumably a victim surcharge in both cases. In addition, both were banned from keeping dogs for life.
Presumably Mr Wilcock was slightly more involved in the offending, but his plea of guilty reduced the sentence to the same of Ms Nunnery.
The fact that Ms Nunnery had a trial explains why she faced a larger costs order.
The maximum sentence that could be imposed was 6 months, and so they both got a sentence close to that maximum. Looking at the sentencing guidelines, it was clearly in the higher category and the sentence imposed was in line with what we would expect.
But in a week in which it has been suggested that the RSPCA should be stripped of it’s powers to prosecute the question of the sentencing powers for this offence is again in the spotlight.