Burnley animal cruelty pair lose bid to have probation scrapped

A couple who allege they are in danger if they go out after being convicted of animal cruelty have lost a bid to have their probation scrapped.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 9:25 am
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 9:27 am
Burnley Magistrates' Court

Becky Louise Briggs (41) and partner Jade English (29) neglected a horse, which led to his death.

They claim they have been the targets of a "relentless" hate campaign on social media and were too terrified to leave their homes unless they were in disguise. They said they couldn't attend appointments at the probation office because they didn't feel safe on public transport, magistrates in Burnley heard.

The women wanted the community orders they had earlier received to be revoked and to be re-sentenced to curfews alone instead - even though they are not going out anyway. But the magistrates refused, said there had been no specific threats to the pair and the courts would not be dictated to by what happens on social media.

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The court was earlier told how the horse, Domino, had been in such a bad state he had collapsed after escaping from his locked stable on a filthy allotment in the town and had to be put down by vets at the scene.

Briggs, who has also used the surname Wilkin, and English were sentenced by the court on January 17th. Briggs, of Burnley Road, Crawshawbooth, Rossendale, had received a 12-month community order, with a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

English, of Manchester Road, Burnley, and tagged to an address in Todmorden, was given a six-month community order with a curfew for eight weeks, between 9pm and 6am and a ten -day rehabilitation activity requirement.

They admitted causing unnecessary suffering to Domino and another horse and three other animal welfare offences relating to horses and a dog. The pair were banned from keeping horses for four years and each was ordered to pay £1,200 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

On Tuesday, they had asked the magistrates to amend the requirements of their community orders, because, they claimed, they were unable to comply because they fear going outdoors.

Their solicitor, John Rusius had earlier told court: "There have been some difficulties in the community with people criticising the defendants and saying things like they should have gone to prison."

"It has made it very difficult to the extent they feel unsafe. If they go out to the shop, they have to wear a wig or a disguise. They do not feel safe going on public transport to the probation offices."

At Tuesday's hearing, Mr Rusius handed the Bench print-outs of comments posted about the couple on Facebook and "the like."

He said: "It's been ongoing, constantly, I believe, since the middle of January and the defendants are obviously very concerned about that. They are very concerned about going out and very concerned about their own safety, not surprisingly."

The solicitor said the women fully accepted they had to be dealt with by the courts, but wished the magistrates to understand the position they were in.

Mr Rusius continued: "It's not a question of not wanting to do the punishment. What they don't want to do is be in fear or be assaulted. It's not a situation they manufactured for themselves. They don't want to be in that situation."

The court was earlier told the RSPCA went to the allotment, off Moseley Road, on December 12th, 2017, after they received reports of the collapsed horse.

After the case, the charity's Inspector Lynsey Taylor said: "What we found when we got there was shocking. The collapsed horse we'd been called about, Domino, was laid at the entrance to the allotment, a few feet away from his stable, which had been bolted shut top and bottom, but Domino had kicked the lower stable door open in his distress.

"Very sadly, there was nothing vets could do for him but end his suffering and he was put to sleep at the scene.

"A second horse, a colt called Koda, was also down, but we managed to get him back on his feet and he was taken to HAPPA - the Horses and Ponies Protection Association - who had also had a call and arrived at the location when we did.

"There were a number of horses at the allotments living in awful conditions - they were underweight, had overgrown feet, lameness, lice and mites to different degrees.

"A dog, called Cyprus, who had recently had puppies, was also living in disgusting conditions and along with the horses, was taken into possession on veterinary advice. She was underweight and suffering from mastitis and diarrhoea."

Cyprus and a horse called Gypsy Boy were immediately signed over to the RSPCA, as was Koda, who was then signed over to HAPPA. He is still at their centre, where he continues his recovery.

The inspector added: "These animals were failed by these people and they suffered - and in Domino's case died - as a result."

In mitigation, the sentencing hearing had been told it was not deliberate cruelty. The defendants claimed the horses had been rescued from elsewhere and they didn't have the money to house and feed them properly.

Mrs Kemp told the couple on Tuesday: "We have given this a lot of consideration and although these extracts from Facebook are unpleasant, we don't see any specific threats. The orders were only imposed on January 17th by the district judge, who deemed that you needed probation intervention."

"In our view the courts can't be dictated to by what happens on social media and as the orders have not had a chance to get started, we are going to refuse the application."