Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Monday, 8 June 2009 14:47 UK

Man jailed for stamping on rabbit

Caerphilly Magistrates Court
Magistrates heard Steven Appleton had mental and emotional problems

A "manipulative and predatory" man has been jailed for stamping his ex-girlfriend's rabbit to death.

Steven Appleton, 23, from Trethomas, near Caerphilly, killed the pet because she would not let him into her house on a nearby estate.

The defendant was convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to the grey female rabbit during a trial at Caerphilly magistrates' court in May.

He was given a six-month custodial sentence by the magistrates.

Prosecutor Aled Watkins said the vet who examined the rabbit said it was caused a painful death because of the variety of injuries it suffered.

These included fractures to the skull, jaw, shoulder blade and pelvis. The rabbit also suffered haemorrhaging from the internal injuries Appleton caused, magistrates heard.

The vet found evidence that the rabbit's body had attempted to heal some of the injuries before dying.

He is a very, very troubled young man, requiring extensive help
Andrew Costley, defending

Mr Watkins said the pet belonged to the defendant's former girlfriend, Rachel Lee, who lived on the nearby Graig-y-Rhacca housing estate.

The court heard the couple had recently separated after he left the area to live in Ashford, Kent, with a girl he had met over the internet.

In the early hours of 29 September last year he texted Ms Lee to tell her that he was coming to visit her.

Sometime around 0500, Ms Lee was woken by Appleton after he had climbed on her shed roof demanding to be let in or he would kill her rabbit.

When she refused, he went into her shed, got the rabbit and placed it on the floor before stamping upon it repeatedly.

"She saw him stamp upon it twice before turning away because she couldn't look any longer," said Mr Watkins.

Half an hour later, Appleton telephoned Ms Lee to apologise.

'Emotional problems'

While being spoken to by a police officer who was in the area, Appleton claimed it was his pet rabbit and he could not bear to see it suffering so "he put it out of its misery".

"The prosecution case is that it was a deliberate act and far from being a humane killing," said Mr Watkins.

Andrew Costley, defending, said Appleton had been assessed as having a variety of mental and emotional problems and is prescribed medication to deal with them.

As a result he is in receipt of disability living allowance and incapacity benefit.

Mr Costley conceded the pre-sentence report was not favourable since it detailed Appleton's lack of remorse and described him as "manipulative and predatory".

Mr Costley said Appleton's doctor had grave concerns about the effect a custodial sentence would have upon him and urged magistrates to pass an alternative sentence.

He added: "He is a very, very troubled young man, requiring extensive help from those in the probation service and those educated to deal with the mental health needs for the long term."

'No remorse'

David Richards, chairman of the magistrates, said: "We have carefully considered what the prosecution said and what Mr Costley said on your behalf.

"Nevertheless we consider this to be an extremely serious offence and it would appear you have shown no remorse for your actions."

In addition to the term of imprisonment, Appleton was also banned from keeping animals for 10 years.

After the sentencing, RSPCA Inspector Simon Evans said: "I'm very pleased that the magistrates have seen the seriousness of his actions.

"There was no remorse and he was not a reasonable chap. What he did was callous and cowardly and he denied it to the end."

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