A judge has warned against vigilante action being taken against four cowardly teenagers who carried out and filmed a “disgusting” attack on a much-loved dead family cat in a Derbyshire park.
The boys, aged 15, 15, 16 and 17, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ‘egged’ each other on as they smashed a rock on the head of the three-year-old cat, hit it with a stick, tied it up with rope before filming and boasting about it on Snapchat.
In what was described as a ‘highly unusual’ and ‘rare’ offence, the youths and their families suffered threats, had their windows smashed, panic alarms fitted and were forced to live in hotels.
The teens each received a 12-month youth referral order and must pay costs and compensation to the cat’s owner after pleading guilty to a charge of outraging public decency at a previous hearing.
Sentencing the boys today at Chesterfield magistrates’ court, judge Andrew Davison, said: “I would urge caution and ask members of the community to respect the decision, even if they do not necessarily agree with it, and not to act in a vigilante fashion.”
The court heard that ginger moggy Leo, was found dead on a path by a dog walker at about 2.30pm on August 11 in Riddings Park with multiple injuries and rope tied around its waist.
A post-mortem examination concluded that Leo was already dead before the attack after bite wounds believed to have been inflicted by a ‘large breed dog’ were found.
The cat suffered horrific injuries to its abdomen, back, head and chest.
Before a break in proceedings, Judge Davison asked the boys if any of them were willing to own up to tieing the cat up with rope and said it would have no affect on sentencing. This caused an “incident” at lunch time but no further information was released.
Judge Davison later added: “As I expected, none of you have been brave enough to come forward and admit that part of the disgusting attack.”
The tearful owner of the cat, Katie Dowler-Chell, said that Leo was a ‘best friend’ to her six-year-old son Lucas.
She said: “He wasn’t just a cat; he was gentle and knowing soul who helped my son come to terms with his feelings of insecurity and bereavement when his father and I separated.”
In mitigation, it was said that all boys were ‘remorseful’ and ‘regretted’ the incident.
The teens were also ordered to pay Ms Dowler-Chell a total of £240 for loss of earnings, £340 in costs and £1,000 in compensation.