Justice is served – Animal torturing brothers feel the full force of the new animal welfare sentencing law.

Dorset Police mugshot of two men, both with brown curly hair

Kirsten and Todd Cooper. Picture courtesy of Dorset Police

Two brothers, Kristen and Todd Cooper, were sentenced for horrifying animal cruelty and theft. Kristen Cooper received a total prison sentence of five years, while Todd Cooper received three years and eight months. The charges included causing unnecessary suffering to protected animals, handling stolen goods, criminal damage, assault, weapons offenses, and driving-related offenses. Kristen Cooper was additionally subject to a 10-year Criminal Behaviour Order, including restrictions on possessing a catapult and being on agricultural or farmland during specific hours, along with a 10-year ban on owning a dog.

The case involved videos found on Kristen Cooper's phone, showing the brothers causing unnecessary suffering to animals, mutilating wildlife, and encouraging dogs to attack injured deer and hares. An expert described the videos as some of the worst cases of animal abuse seen in 24 years.

If you want to read more https://www.dorsetview.co.uk/new-forest-brothers-jailed-for-torturing-animals

The positive development in this story is the increase in animal cruelty sentencing in England and Wales, with judges gaining greater powers to increase prison sentences for such offences. This is down to the introduction of the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act, which increased the legal maximum sentences for many animal cruelty offences to five years, and which was something the League led lobbying for years to achieve.  

The Sentencing Council for England and Wales issued new guidelines, incorporating feedback from the League. The guidelines now allow judges to treat serious animal cruelty offenses, such as dog fighting and badger baiting, more seriously.

The council initially proposed sentences of around 18 months for the most serious offences, but, following feedback, revised them to a range of six months to three years six months, with a starting point of two years in jail. Particularly severe cases may result in a five-year sentence.

As Head of Intelligence at the League my team face the daily task of reviewing disturbing and upsetting material of the worst levels of animal cruelty in the form of videos and images posted to social media. These new sentencing capabilities were introduced after the League gave important feedback in the consultation process and I believe they are a game changer in tackling these offenders. Not only does the increase in penalty act as a deterrent they will provide law enforcement additional capabilities to investigate these crimes which previously weren’t an option for them.

Thanks to all those who campaigned for harsher sentences and changes in language to ensure that serious animal cruelty cases receive appropriate punishment, the new guidelines also consider factors such as financial gain from animal cruelty as aggravating, potentially leading to harsher sentences.

The partnership between Dorset Police and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary on bringing this case to court was crucial, emphasising the severity of the crimes and the harm caused to both rural communities and wildlife. The police have also highlighted their commitment to addressing rural crime, including wildlife crime, and holding offenders accountable.

If you have concerns about cruelty to animals in the name of sport you can report to our supporter funded animal crimewatch reporting service on 0300 444 1234 or online using our reporting form https://www.league.org.uk/animal-crimewatch/report/

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