‘Sick joke’ brings community penalties

March 7, 2018 | By More

Community-based penalties lie ahead for a Christchurch man who says he accidentally emailed a sickening animal cruelty video to a journalist.

Christchurch District Court Judge David Saunders said the video was meant to be a “sick joke” that 28-year-old Johnny Andrew McQuillan was sending to his Facebook friends.

Instead, it went out to a wider distribution list including the chief news director at The Press newsroom, Blair Ensor.

Ensor had had previous dealings with McQuillan and believed he was being targeted. “He saw it as a public duty to refer this matter to the police,” said Judge Saunders.

Ensor reported in 2016 that the SPCA had launched an animal cruelty investigation after McQuillan – described as having white supremacist links – posted another Facebook video showing a man biting the head off a live chicken.

McQuillan was arrested for the latest incident involving supplying an objectionable video late last year and pleaded guilty in December.

Prosecutor Aja Trinder said the video had been posted as a “sick joke” for his friends on Facebook. “It may have been seen as retribution by Mr Ensor given the nature of his earlier contact with this defendant.”

Defence counsel Rachel Wood said McQuillan’s mother had written a letter of apology, because McQuillan struggled with reading and writing after leaving school early. The letter apologised for any embarrassment he caused to Ensor, and wanted him to know that he was not being targeted.

The letter has now been given to the police for passing to the victim.

Ensor’s statement was read in court. He said: “Journalists have the right to go about our job without becoming the target of those we write about. We do not expect to be sent sickening, disturbing footage like the video you sent me.

“Unfortunately the footage was inadvertently seen by some of my colleagues, who were highly offended. It is difficult to comprehend why someone would possess and distribute footage showing such extreme animal cruelty. You are part of the problem.

“I hope the sentence you receive acts as a deterrent to those considering abusing and threatening journalists, and, more generally, those who distribute such horrific material.”

Judge Saunders said the maximum penalty of 14 years’ jail showed it was seen as significant offending, but he accepted that it was “stupid, unthinking offending” rather than a hate crime, or an attempt to “get at” the journalist.

He imposed three months of community detention with a nightly curfew, and 140 hours of community work. He placed McQuillan on supervision for nine months with a requirement to attend any course to deal with drug and alcohol issues.

He said some of the community work could be converted to training so that McQuillan could be “work ready” when he completed the term.

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