Further to the news that Rhys Owen Davies, 28, a gamekeeper employed by Millden Estate in the Angus Glens, has been jailed for sadistic animal cruelty crimes (see here and here), there has been quite a lot of comment about the perceived leniency of his sentence and questions about whether his dog-fighting associates are being prosecuted.
Although an eight-month custodial sentence, plus an £1800 fine for firearms offences and a 15-year ban on keeping or owning dogs does seem quite lenient given the depravity and cruelty of his crimes, Rhys Owen Davies has actually received the most severe punishment, so far, of those involved.
Two of his associates have already been convicted and sentenced:
Antony Holloway, 28, was given a 270-hour community payback order at Dumbarton Sheriff Court in June 2021 and banned from owning dogs for just four years – despite prosecutors and the Scottish SPCA seeking a lifetime ban. There’s an article about his conviction here (and no, I don’t know why his identify has been hidden).
Another criminal associate, Liam Taylor, was sentenced in November 2021 for his role in this particular gang with a pathetic 12-month supervision order and 240 hours of unpaid work. He was banned from keeping dogs for ten years.
Prosecutors are apparently considering cases against others identified in the appalling photographs found on Davies’ phone.
It seems that Davies received a custodial sentence principally because he was employed as a gamekeeper and Sheriff Reekie noted this as an “aggravating factor” because Davies would have known that what he was doing was illegal. Crown prosecutor Karon Rollo had made a point of emphasising this when Davies’ barrister tried to suggest that Davies was simply ‘naïve’.
So on balance, a custodial sentence in this case is a significant result, and full credit to the Scottish SPCA and Crown Office for securing it, although for many of us eight months is simply not enough.
The good news is that tougher penalties are now in place in Scotland for animal cruelty and wildlife crime. New legislation enacted in December 2020 (the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act 2020), increased the maximum penalty for the most serious animal welfare and wildlife crimes (including badger baiting) to five years imprisonment and unlimited fines.