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Key decisions

  • Brighton v RSPCA (NSW) [2023] NSWSC 1653
  • DG v R (No 1) [2023] NSWCCA 320

Brighton v RSPCA (NSW) [2023] NSWSC 1653

Appeals from the Local Court – avenues of appeal – interesting but unnecessary facts

A Supreme Court judge, sitting alone, himself described this case as ‘arguably interesting’, involving, as it did, an unprovoked attack on a camel named Alice, the ‘barbaric’ killing of a dog by the owner, summary conviction, a successful appeal, remittal and the eventual imposition of an ‘extraordinarily severe’ sentence. Its real importance to these pages is in the examination of the different appeal options from decisions of the Local Court.

The facts are in equal parts compelling, challenging and strictly unnecessary for the purpose of understanding the judgment – but they cannot go unmentioned. The appellant owned a mobile petting zoo with animals including a camel named Alice. In the dark of night two dogs entered the property where Alice was housed (the catchwords reveal that the dogs’ names are unknown). The dogs attacked Alice, causing serious injuries to her legs, throat and face; they had to be beaten off Alice with a pole. The appellant caught one of the dogs and tied it to a tree so that it was ‘fairly submissive’. Submissiveness notwithstanding, in the acts constituting the first charge, the appellant stabbed the dog repeatedly with a pitchfork, before going to the vet to get medication for the camel. The pitchfork was left in the dog. When the appellant came back, the dog was still alive. This apparently came as some surprise to the appellant, but when he realised this, he suspended the dog from a tree and repeatedly beat it about the head with a mallet, saying ‘I will make sure it’s dead’. The dog died and was buried. The one eyewitness to the acts of cruelty was instructed never to tell anybody that she had seen dogs. Expert evidence taken after exhumation of the remains of the dog found the injuries were likely to have inflicted prolonged suffering and were not consistent with the humane ‘extinction’ of a dog. In the Local Court the appellant was sentenced to fulltime imprisonment for 3 years and 2 months (the length of the non-parole period is not mentioned).

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