The police have arrested a man who they believe attacked 16 cats, nine of whom where killed over eight months in Brighton, England, UK.
His name is Steven Bouquet, 52, a security guard. The Crown Prosecution Service decided to charge him with criminal damage under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 rather than animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
This is very unusual. Apparently the reason given is that (a) the defendant it not the owner of the cats and (b) the sentence is greater for criminal damage.
It is immaterial that the defendant is not the cats’ owner. Animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 applies to owners or non-owners. It is irrelevant if a person owns or does not own the cat who is the victim of cruelty.
Secondly, the definition of criminal damage is:
A person who, without lawful excuse, destroys or damages any property belonging to another, intending to destroy or damage any such property, or being reckless as to whether any such property would be destroyed or damaged.
Therefore the cats who were hurt and killed have to be owned by someone. What if some of the cats were not owned by anyone but strays? If that is the case the Criminal Damage Act 1971 would not apply and the defendant would get off or the sentence will be reduced because less cats were harmed.
Thirdly, defendants only get a lesser sentence under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 if the cats are worth more than £5,000 (see below for crimimal damage sentencing). Sixteen cats were harmed or killed. It is highly likely that these were random bred cats with a combined value of about 16x£50 making £800. Therefore the sentence for killing or harming 16 cats under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 would be a maximum of 6 months. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 the maximum sentence is 51 weeks’ imprisonment or a fine up to level 4 on the standard scale (currently £2,500), or both. In other words the sentence is shorter under the Crimimal Damage Act 1971 not longer.
If all the cats were purebred or some of them were which pushed their combined value above £5,000 then the CPS would be correct to charge with criminal damage. However, there is no report that the cats are purebred and it much more likely that they are random bred and worth about £35-£50 each. Purebreds are worth about £500-£1000 each. Even then ten of the cats would have to be purebred (£5,000 combined value) which is impossible to imagine.
On these calculations the CPS is wrong to have charged Bouquet with criminal damage. It should have been a charge of animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Sentencing for Criminal Damage cases: In cases where the damage is less than £5000, the maximum sentence for criminal damage is six months imprisonment. In cases where the damage caused is over £5000, the maximum sentence is ten years imprisonment.
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