Prosecuting the usual (and not so usual) defendant

Tracey Jackson, Prosecution Officer, RSCPA Queensland – view profile

Just when we thought it was safe to take animal welfare prosecutions into the court room. Just when we were satisfied that community expectations are reflected in penalties and court decisions. Just as we started to relax, courts have thrown us an unexpected new kind of curve ball, as we struggle increasingly to convict the ‘not your usual’ defendant. We will take a closer look at some real cases about animal cruelty and neglect which have been prosecuted in recent times. The difference with these cases is that the defendant is not unemployed, uneducated, using drugs, or suffering mental health issues. They do not have a lengthy criminal history. They are ‘good’ members of their community, and are financially comfortable. They are professionals, retirees, good parents, and for the most part, loving pet owners. These people are, to quote a Queensland District Court Judge, ‘not your usual defendant’. But does this mean they should escape punishment or culpability for animal cruelty or neglect?