Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Police officers kicked pet dogs

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Footage of the officers hitting their pet dogs

Two police officers have been told they face possible jail sentences for causing suffering and "mental terror" to their two pet dogs.

Magistrates in Denbigh heard how Anja Mason, 29 and Craig Macleod, 34, who lived together in Prestatyn, now also face losing their jobs.

A neighbour filmed them hitting and kicking the pets and called the RSPCA.

Both admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a collie pup called Tess and Macleod to a rottweiler, Snoopy.

Both officers, who will be sentenced on 25 November, have been removed from frontline duties until the end of the case, said North Wales Police.

The court was told a neighbour had been concerned about the ill-treatment of dogs at the property and had called the RSPCA on several occasions.

RSPCA video still
There were several incidents of deliberate ill-treatment and frightening of the dogs
Wendy Gibbs, chair of magistrates

However, when an RSPCA inspector found no evidence of cruelty, the neighbour bought camera equipment and positioned it overlooking the couple's yard.

Prosecuting, Glenn Murphy said: "To her credit this lady purchased a camera and she took many hours of video footage."

A DVD, about 15-20 minutes in length, was played to the court.

In one scene Mason was filmed hitting the pup's head and kicking her.

Later the dog was seen pulling washing from a line before Macleod emerged from the house and chased it to a corner of the yard. Out of shot of the camera the dog could then be heard yelping.

'Intentionally caused pain'

In other scenes, Macleod sprayed the dogs with water and Mason is seen chasing the puppy with what appears to be a stick.

The rottweiler can also be heard yelping as it is apparently abused by Macleod off camera.

The court heard how Macleod had been concerned that the rottweiler was "over-zealous" with his eight-year-old daughter when she visited and he had been advised by a dog handler to spray water as a deterrent.

Magistrates chairwoman Wendy Gibbs told the defendants: "There were several incidents of deliberate ill-treatment and frightening of the dogs."

She said the magistrates had found no mitigating factors.

She added: "You intentionally caused pain and suffering to both dogs and mental terror to both dogs."

"You risked injury to both dogs by kicking them."

She said all sentencing options would remain open, including custody.

Craig Macleod and Anja Mason
Magistrates found no mitigating factors for the actions of Macleod and Mason

Both defendants had faced six charges relating to alleged offences between March and April 2008.

However the majority of the charges were withdrawn when no evidence was offered against them.

The court heard the DVD had been viewed by a vet who concluded "the actions were not those of a reasonably competent and humane carer".

Joanne Stephens, defending, said neither Mason nor Macleod had intended to cause the animals pain.

The court heard both dogs were signed over to the RSPCA by their owners and are now doing well.

Miss Stephens said: "The defendants stand to lose their jobs as a result of having a criminal conviction which would affect their livelihoods."

Speaking after the case, RSPCA spokesman Gethin Russell-Jones said it was one of the most unusual cases he had been involved in because it hinged on the DVD evidence.

"There was no other evidence, and this neighbour had constructed this camera and concealed it and over the course of about a month...had captured these scenes," he said.

"Yes, that was crucial, and I'm sure as far as the court was concerned it was fairly striking evidence."

Asked about the fact the defendants are police officers, he said: "We prosecute without discrimination, and always fairly, so their occupation is irrelevant as far as we're concerned.

"If we find that animals have been treated unfairly, cruelly, or there's been unnecessary suffering, then the whole weight of the law comes down on them. The magistrate did say that, and it was a very harsh summing up."

A North Wales Police spokeswoman said: "Following today's appearance, both officers have been removed from front line duties and placed in non-operational roles pending the result of the case.

"As matters have not yet been finalised in court, it would be wholly inappropriate to make further comment at present."

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