Page last updated at 14:51 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Man who clubbed seal pups jailed

Jimmy Stewart
Jimmy Stewart killed the 21 grey seals pups on the small island of East Linga

A fisherman who clubbed 21 grey seal pups to death on a remote Scottish island has been jailed for 80 days.

Jimmy Stewart, 47, admitted mutilating, beating and crushing the animals on the Shetland island of East Linga.

The discovery was made on a beach on the island by staff from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), who were carrying out a survey last November.

Stewart, who battered the heads of the seals with a wooden fence post, was jailed at Lerwick Sheriff Court.

The courts will not tolerate the infliction of such unnecessary suffering not just on one but on 21 seals
Sheriff Graeme Napier

Charges against a second man also accused of being involved, John Eunson, were earlier dropped.

Sheriff Graeme Napier told first offender Stewart: "As you are aware you have pled guilty to a very serious offence.

"It is an unusual offence for the courts to deal with which perhaps, if nothing else does, makes clear the general acceptance by law abiding members of the community of how unacceptable this behaviour is.

"I am not here to sentence you on the basis that your actions have caused heightened emotions in certain parts of the community. My responsibility is to sentence you in accordance with the law."

He said Stewart was of previous good character and, according to references, had contributed to his local community in Whalsay.

But he said: "I must balance that against the seriousness of the offending and a need to make clear that society in general and the courts will not tolerate the infliction of such unnecessary suffering not just on one but on 21 seals.

Dead seal pup
The grey seals pups were discovered by Scottish Natural Heritage

"I consider that there is no alternative but a custodial sentence."

SNH and Northern Constabulary welcomed the conviction.

An SNH spokesman said: "SNH is committed to helping combat wildlife crime and we hope that the court's decision today will act as a strong deterrent to others."

A Northern Constabulary spokesman said: "It was a thorough investigation into a serious case of cruelty to animals which was followed by a robust prosecution.

"As a force, we are committed to a proactive approach to wildlife crime. It will not be tolerated."

He added of the sentence: "We welcome the sentence, it sends out a clear message to those participating in wildlife crime."

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