Unpaid work for teenager who punched horse in the face

Unpaid work for teenager who punched horse in the face

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Nico Pettigrew, aged 18, was with his 14-year-old girlfriend. According to press reports, they lured a horse over towards them by offering to feed it. Pettigrew then punched the animal with some force, causing it to step back, and then threw a rock at it, causing it to collapse.

The Telegraph reported that he said he did so ‘for a laugh’ and had injured his hand during the attack.

Offences

Pettigrew was convicted of breach of the peace (the horse incident and smashing a bus stop) and pleaded to a separate breach of the peace and shoplifting.

Witness

The Telegraph reported that the attacked was witnessed by Hilda Cochrane:
“I heard voices shouting and joking. I got out of bed to look out the window. It was a girl and the boy.

“They were at the field. They were giggling and carrying on, then she bent down to pick grass up to try and entice the horses over.

“Eventually the horses came over, thinking they were going to get a bit of grass. The white horse came over to get a bit of grass.

“The young guy punched the horse in the face and the horse went back a bit. The boy hurt his hand and went down holding it. It was terrible.

“The girl was laughing and joking. She did it again and the horse was quite cagey. The young guy got a brick or a stone and hit the horse. I heard the thump on the horse’s chest. It went down on all fours in shock.”

Sentence

Perth Sheriff Court ordered him to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work as part of an 18-month payback order. He was also ordered to attend drug treatment after pleading to ‘a number of offences’.

Thoughts

At UK Criminal Law Blog, we are all for imposing community instead of custodial sentences where possible, the idea of focussing on rehabilitation not punishment and generally looking for the ‘good’ in people, hoping that with some help they can ‘change their ways’.

Having said that, I think I would given Pettigrew a somewhat sterner sentence. Though there is little point in sending him to custody, an unpaid word order doesn’t quite seem to mark the pernicious nature of attacking a vulnerable animal, with a weapon, (presumably to show off) with sufficient force to knock a large animal to the floor.

Now, I don’t want to turn this into a Daily Mail comments section, but perhaps readers might want to suggest alternative punishments…

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Lyndon is the General Editor of Current Sentencing Practice and the Criminal Appeal Reports (Sentencing)

4 COMMENTS

  1. Restorative Justice perhaps? Either a specific RJ disposal, such as those available in the Thames Valley, or unpaid work with a placement at, say, Riding for the Disabled, where this young idiot might learn to appreciate horses as living, feeling beings, and see how much pleasure and indeed joy they can give.

  2. What options do you actually think that magistrates’ courts have?

    a) We are bound by the Sentencing Council, so can’t go off on a frolic of our own and be ‘creative’ (not that I’m advocating that, merely pointing out that we are bound by authorities), and b) The range of sentences commence with discharges (unconditional and conditional), and then escalate through fines (rarely effective if offenders are on benefits), to community work orders and only – in extremis – imprisonment. It seems to me that a hefty community work order was the most the bench could impose.

    It’s all easy for well-heeled professionals in Clapham or Islington to sniff at cases like this, but given that many offenders have no money, no prospects, no reputation to be damaged, and are also substance abusers, there are few effective options. Prison may be cathartic for Daily Mail readers to pontificate over their breakfast newspaper, but it hardly achieves anything, if anything short sentences set most people back, and it is extortionately expensive for the taxpayer. Short of US-style mass incarceration of entire swathes of the population (good for votes, not so effective in reality), this is the best we can do.

    The late, lamented Inspector Gadget blog was always highly critical of magistrates, but while one understood his anger, it was misdirected: government funds the CJS, and benches must follow Sentencing Guidelines. Please direct complaints to them!

  3. In earlier times offenders could be dragged through the cobbled streets tied to a horse’s tail . . .behave, Andrew.

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