A Queensland greyhound trainer has been charged in the first such case following the explosive Four Corners report on 16 February 2015, which exposed rampant animal cruelty in the industry.
Tom Noble was charged with seven counts of serious animal cruelty and appeared at Ipswich Magistrates Court on 10 March 2015. He was granted bail and is due to appear again on 31 March 2015.
Noble’s charges link him to the use of animals for live bait. He faces a maximum seven years in jail.
The Four Corners report detailed widespread cheating and illegality in the industry, including using live bait in training sessions, which trainers allowed dogs to kill. The program used undercover footage from animal welfare groups to present the story.
Animal cruelty law in NSW
As discussed in our earlier blogs on animal cruelty (see below), there are a number of offences under various acts which criminalise mistreatment of animals.
The most serious incidences of animal cruelty, like that alleged against Tom Noble in Queensland, are covered by s 530 of the Crimes Act, in an offence called “Serious animal cruelty”. The offence is made out where:
(1) A person who, with the intention of inflicting severe pain:
(a) tortures, beats or commits any other serious act of cruelty on an animal, and
(b) kills or seriously injures or causes prolonged suffering to the animal,
is guilty of an offence.
The maximum penalty is 5 years’ jail.
The transcript of the Four Corners report suggests that Mr Noble put the animals in a hessian sack, attached them to the rail of a greyhound racing track, and set them off, allowing the dogs to maul and kill the animal when they caught them. If these facts were proved in a NSW court, it is likely that he would be found guilty of an offence under s 530 of the Crimes Act, however there might be some scope for a defence.
The District Court case of Larobina v R  NSWDC 79 established that there are three elements to the test: the intention to inflict severe pain, the act of torture, beating or an act of serious cruelty, and the result that the animal is in fact killed, seriously injured or prolonged suffering is caused to the animal. If we were in NSW, Noble could argue that he did not do the act, but rather the dog did. One argument in favour of the prosecution could be that he tortured the animal and caused prolonged suffering by allowing a dog to maul it. The words “kills” and “seriously injures” permit a fairly narrow interpretation: a court would likely hold that Noble would actually have to do this. Accessorial liability is no help either: one cannot be an accessory to an animal. Another issue is that the animal died quickly: perhaps this is not “prolonged”. In any event, the best way of proving this offence would be by construing these “catch-all” provisions widely.
The charge in question
Section 242 of the Queensland Criminal Code does not encompass such a three-part test. It is simply an offence to have the intention, and then go on to kill, seriously injure, or cause prolonged suffering. Therefore Noble would be more likely to be convicted of the offence of serious animal cruelty in a Queensland court than a NSW court on the acts described by the ABC.
It will be interesting to see if charges result in NSW based on the Four Corners episode, and whether prosecutors have more difficulty in NSW than those in Queensland do in the Noble case.
Image credit: ABC Four Corners
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