Cellphone recording halts animal welfare sentencing

March 22, 2018 | By More

A man who allegedly threatened animal welfare inspectors was found with videos and photographs of SPCA staff around the Justice Precinct on his cellphone, when he was being sentenced.

The material was found on 61-year-old Darryl Lawrie Mccartney’s phone after an odd incident that halted a sitting in the Christchurch District Court.

Before Judge David Saunders were Mccartney for sentencing on a charge of obstructing animal welfare inspectors, and his wife Victoria Anne Mccartney on charges of causing one cat to suffer, and failing to get veterinary treatment for another.

The Balcairn pair had denied the charges but were found guilty at a three-day judge-alone trial.

After the two went into the dock to be sentenced, a Court Security Officer noticed that a cellphone had been left recording on a bar in front of the public seating.

The officer passed a note to the court registrar who spoke to the judge. He immediately stopped the sitting and had defence counsel Joshua Shaw and SPCA prosecutor Ben Vanderkolk go into discussions about the incident in his chambers.

When the session resumed, Judge Saunders said the recording was not authorised – an official transcript was available if required – and it would be deleted from the phone by security staff.

Judge Saunders later reported that when the staff did that, they found other recordings of proceedings as well as photographs and videos of SPCA staff around the Justice Precinct at earlier sittings. All of the material was deleted from the phone and it was then returned to Darryl Mccartney.

The case arose from an incident in 2016, when a veterinarian reported to the SPCA that Victoria Mccartney had failed to keep to an arrangement to have a terminally ill cat named Michael euthanised.

The vet had made the arrangement on a Friday, leaving her to say her goodbyes to the cat over the weekend, so that it could be euthanised on Monday. She cancelled the visit, and the animal welfare officers then turned up at the couple’s farm.

Judge Saunders said that Darryl Mccartney then inflamed the situation with his erroneous view that the officers were not allowed on the property. In fact, they had a statutory function to ensure that animals were not suffering unnecessarily.

The inspectors said that Darryl Mccartney threatened them. Judge Saunders found him guilty of obstruction and referred to evidence of him being aggressive in his language and actions.

The cat Michael was euthanised and the inspectors noticed a second cat, Mary, which had cancers developing in the ears and nose, and also needed other treatment. It has since been treated and returned to the Mccartneys.

Mr Vanderkolk said he wanted people to realise that it was not open to animal owners to subvert the lawful directions of a veterinary surgeon.

Defence counsel Mr Shaw urged the judge not to impose any disqualification on owning animals. A recent report by an independent veterinarian has shown no issues about the care of the couple’s animals.

Judge Saunders said it was not a case of cruel ill-treatment of the cats. It was a bad judgment call in not having the cat Michael euthanised as arranged. Victoria Mccartney’s judgment had been affected by her strong attachment to the cat.

He decided it would be vindictive for the court to impose a ban on her owning animals.

The judge decided that supervision or community work were not warranted as penalties, but he imposed fines and reparation orders totalling more than $10,000.

He fined Darryl McCartney $1000, and ordered Victoria Mccarthy to pay $3000 in fines, and $4221 in reparations for the SPCA’s veterinary bills. He also ordered court costs and witness’ expenses totalling more than $2000.

He made an order that the fines should be paid to the SPCA rather than the courts, to pay some of the costs of its investigation and prosecution.

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