Animal cruelty case punishment upheld

A LANDHOLDER is beginning a six-month prison sentence after a judge upheld his punishment for causing unnecessary suffering to hundreds of sheep.The case of Edward Howard and the prolonged and inhumane neglect of hundreds of sheep on his rented land at RAF Bentwaters has been described as the worst ever case of its kind in Suffolk.

A LANDHOLDER is beginning a six-month prison sentence after a judge upheld his punishment for causing unnecessary suffering to hundreds of sheep.

The case of Edward Howard and the prolonged and inhumane neglect of hundreds of sheep on his rented land at RAF Bentwaters has been described as the worst ever case of its kind in Suffolk.

South East Suffolk Magistrates Court sentenced Howard to six months in jail in March this year after he admitted 18 charges relating to the mistreatment of sheep and failure to bury animal carcasses. He was also banned from keeping livestock for 10 years.

At an appeal against the punishment at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday , James Dixon, for Howard, failed to convince judge Peter Thompson that his client had not fully understood his responsibility towards the animals.


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Mr Dixon said Howard, of Churnwood Road, Colchester, had believed the hauliers who had delivered the sheep to Suffolk from Yorkshire, should have looked after them.

But judge Thompson upheld the ruling by South East Suffolk Magistrates Court, adding that the case was so serious, only a jail sentence was appropriate.

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He said: “In our consideration, the magistrates' reasons were carefully considered and correct.”

He listed the reasons as being the prolonged suffering, horrific injuries and neglect endured by the sheep and Howard's responsibility towards the animals, as the tenant.

The court was shown disturbing video images of rotting carcasses caught in razor wire and emaciated sheep ridden with disease.

Howard, 55, who is now working as a lorry driver, had received four lorry loads of animals during the winter of 2000-2001 at a cost of 40p per sheep, per week. Yorkshire farmers had entrusted their flocks to him believing they would benefit from better pastureland.

Although Howard did have a licence to graze animals at RAF Bentwaters, it was restricted to 500 animals in a defined area.

In reality, he took in more than 700 sheep, allowing them to roam free among pillboxes, aircraft hangars and other hazards.

Lynn Griffin, for Suffolk County Council, at the appeal hearing, revealed how Howard had failed to provide sufficient food or water for the animals or treat them when they fell ill.

Nor did he free them when they became caught in fencing, allowing them instead to die, she said.

She described his attitude as “unconcerned and irresponsible”.

Council representatives and veterinary surgeons found up to 100 carcasses strewn across his land on four separate visits in February and March 2001. Howard had ignored a notice to rectify the situation although, Mr Dixon said, his client had tried to call the hauliers on many occasions and had also attempted to take one trailer load of sheep to a veterinary surgeon.

He said that in the past, other farmers using Howard's land had agreed to care and provide for the animals themselves and that Howard, a relatively uneducated man, had assumed the same rules applied in this case.

The Yorkshire owners were alerted to the plight of their animals by the authorities that had visited the site. Many of those sheep that were returned to their owners later had to be put down.

Mr Dixon stressed that Howard's actions had not been deliberately cruel.

“It is not the same as putting a cat in a microwave,” he said.

A veterinary surgeon examining the carcasses said it was the worst case of neglect he had seen in 38 years doing his job.

The cost of bringing the case to court was estimated at £18,838, with the cost of compensation to the claimants at around £15,741. Howard, who was to begin his jail sentence immediately, was not ordered to pay either costs or compensation.

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