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Serious Animal Cruelty

The most serious of all the animal cruelty offences in Queensland is provided for by Section 242 of the Queensland Criminal Code which says that:

  • “(1) A person who, with the intention of inflicting severe pain or suffering, unlawfully kills, or causes serious injury or prolonged suffering to, an animal commits a crime. Maximum penalty—7 years imprisonment.”

Subsection (3) of that provision defines ‘serious’ injury as:

  • “(a) the loss of a distinct part or an organ of the body; or
  • (b) a bodily injury of such a nature that, if left untreated, would—
    • (i) endanger, or be likely to endanger, life; or
    • (ii) cause, or be likely to cause, permanent injury to health.”

An offence of serious animal cruelty will be prosecuted by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (which is different to the other cruelty offences which are normally prosecuted by private lawyers paid by the RSPCA). While the charge is not commonly laid (lesser charges under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 are normally preferred), jail sentences are regularly imposed for the offence when it is proceeded upon

What the Prosecution Must Prove

In order to convict you of serious animal cruelty the prosecution must establish that:

  • You killed or caused serious injury or prolonged suffering to an animal, and
  • You did so unlawfully, that is without an excuse provided by the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 or some other law (not merely an excuse which might be reasonable in a common-sense way), and
  • You did the unlawful thing mentioned above with the intention of inflicting severe pain or suffering on the animal.

It is important to recognise that this charge does not necessarily require the prosecution to establish an exclusive, sadistic, intent on your behalf. It can be sufficient to prove that the conduct which inflicts severe pain or suffering on the animal was intentional in circumstances where such pain and suffering was an obvious and inevitable result of the conduct.

Possible Defences for Serious Animal Cruelty

In addition to the statutory defences provided by the Queensland Criminal Code (for example Extraordinary Emergency, Insanity or Intoxication), and the default entitlement to an acquittal where the prosecution fails to prove its case against you, you will not be guilty of an offence of serious animal cruelty if you have an excuse provided by the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001.

That Act provides excuses in relation to the religious slaughter of animals, using live bait while fishing or using a live animal to feed another animal (among others). If you have been charged with serious animal cruelty it is essential that you speak with a lawyer experienced in the area to know whether or not you have an excuse available under the Animal Care and Protection Act.

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

Serious animal cruelty is a crime, which is an indictable offence, and it will be heard and determined in the District Court.

Types of Penalties:

Imprisonment : Even though it is not a sentence of last resort (as it is in some other states) imprisonment is the most serious penalty which a court can impose upon a person. At its most severe a sentence of imprisonment means that a person must spend a specified period of time within a correctional facility, also called a prison, a jail or a gaol. Read more.

Intensive corrections order (ICO): An Intensive Corrections Order (‘ICO’ for short) is, technically, a form of imprisonment but which is served wholly in the community. This means that a person who is made subject to an ICO will not spend any time in prison but will, instead, be required to adhere to a number of requirements that the court will order. Read more.

Probation: A court can make a Probation Order either by itself, meaning the whole of the sentence is probation, or as a component of a sentence of imprisonment, meaning that a person is ordered to serve a period of time (not longer than 1 year) in prison and is then subject to a probation requirement upon release. Read more.

Community service order(CSO): As the name implies, a Community Service Order (‘CSO’ for short) is an order which requires a person to perform unpaid work, normally at some kind of community facility, for a stated number of hours (to a maximum of 240) within a nominated time (usually 6 or 12 months). Read More.

Recognisance: A recognisance is a promise which a person makes to be of good behaviour for a stated period of time. A court is empowered to release a person who enters into a recognisance, either with a surety, which is a sum of money which the person agrees to pay if they breach the recognisance, or without one. Read More.

Fines: A court is empowered to impose a fine, which is a sum of money which a person is required to pay to the State, for any offence regardless of whether the law creating it nominates a fine as part of the applicable penalty. Read More.

Section 19 dismissal: A court can discharge a person absolutely, or upon them entering into a recognisance, without recording a conviction against them, if it is satisfied that it is appropriate to do so. Read More.

In all cases where you are sentenced to a penalty other than jail, the Court can choose not to record a conviction against you, meaning your criminal record will remain clear and any complications with work or travel may be avoided.



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