PF v Christopher Gorman

At Airdrie Sheriff Court today, 21 July 2017, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll imposed a six-month Restriction of Liberty Order on Christopher Gorman after the accused was convicted of a series of animal abuse offences. He was also fined £500 and disqualified from owning, keeping or selling animals or running a pet shop for a period of 10 years.

On sentencing, Sheriff O’Carroll made the following statement in court:

“Christopher Gorman, you have been convicted of a total of nine offences under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and one offence under the Pet Animals Act 1951. Those offences are serious in my view.

“Between June and October 2015, you acquired a large number of dogs including puppies imported from England and Lithuania and you used your home and garden to keep and sell them for profit. You kept them those dogs and puppies in an unsuitable and unhygienic environment exposing all of them to faeces and diarrhoea, failing to protect them from suffering injury, bullying, fighting and disease.

“You persisted in keeping them in such conditions, ignoring expert advice on care and treatment from the SSPCA and a vet. You were wholly unqualified to provide proper care and treatment for the dogs. You knew you required a licence for such activities under the 1951 Act but you ignored that requirement.

“As a result, many of the dogs were caused unnecessary suffering which you knew or ought to have known. Many suffered from diarrhoea and worms. Some did not get proper treatment for skin conditions, eye conditions and conditions affecting their paws. One of the dogs received a fractured jaw which was untreated and then became infected.

“The SSPCA then removed all the dogs from your care so that they could be properly treated and cared for.

“Undaunted, and without providing any material improvement to the amateurish and inadequate accommodation you created, you then acquired a number of additional dogs for the same purposes.

“You continued to keep those dogs in an unhygienic and unsuitable environment; the dogs continued to be exposed to suffering, injury and disease and were not given adequate veterinary treatment.

“Once again, the SSPCA were forced to step in and on 19 January 2016, it visited your premises and removed all of the dogs.

“One dog was suffering so badly it required to be euthanised immediately. An additional 10 dogs were found to suffer from untreated or inadequately treated diseases and injuries such as skin and eye conditions, inflammation to their paws and diarrhoea.

“One dog was found with multiple puncture wounds to its head and body as well as inflammation of its feet, scrotum, and anal area. Another dog had a full thickness injury to its body and multiple injuries to its body as well as inflammation to the feet and scrotum.

“These dogs were also subject to unnecessary suffering as a result of your actions and neglect which you knew or ought to have known.

“Throughout these lengthy criminal proceedings, you have denied any responsibility for these wrongs whatsoever, maintaining, despite overwhelming expert evidence to the contrary, that the condition of the dogs and the environment in which you kept them was good or that where there were problems, that was not your fault.

“You blamed everybody but yourself for the condition of the puppies and dogs. The court reports prepared on you show that you have no remorse whatsoever.

In these circumstances, the threshold for the imposition of a custodial sentence is easily passed. However, by law I may only impose a custodial sentence if there is no reasonable alternative.

You have only one previous conviction and you have never served a custodial sentence. You claim to be unfit for unpaid work.

“However, your home would be suitable for the installation of monitoring devices. I understand that you would agree to your movements being restricted.

“The alternative of a restriction of liberty order is, on balance, a suitable direct alternative to what would otherwise have been a custodial sentence on the 2006 Act charges. I sentence you as follows.

“I deal first with the period between June and October 2015 ending with the seizing of the dogs by the SSPCA on the first occasion. As regards charges 1, 3, 4, in cumulo, I sentence you to a restriction of liberty order which will restrict you to your home between the hours of 7pm and 7am for a period of two months from today. That is, you will be tagged.

“Next, I deal with the period in January 2016 ending with the seizing of more dogs by the SSPCA on the second occasion. As regards charges 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, in cumulo I sentence you to a restriction of liberty order which will restrict you to your home between the hours of 7pm and 7am for a period of four months. That order is consecutive to the order that I have just made. Therefore your liberty will be restricted for a total period of six months on these charges.

“As regards charge 2, that is the failure to obtain a licence required by the 1951 Act for the business of selling animals as pets, I fine you the maximum amount which is, remarkably, only £500. You have seven days to pay.

“As for a disqualification order in terms of section 40 of the 2006 Act, in my view, you are an unsuitable person to look after any animals whatsoever. I therefore impose a disqualification order on you which disqualifies you from owning or keeping animals, dealing in animals, transporting animals, working with or using animals or taking charge of any animals for any other purpose. That is for a period of 10 years from today.

“You should understand that this disqualification order includes disqualification from any participation in such activities including being concerned in the management or control of a body, such as one of the companies you control, whose business involves the activity. Breach of this disqualification order is a criminal offence.

“Furthermore, in terms of section 5 of the 1951 Act, you are disqualified from keeping a pet shop (including selling animals as part of a business) for a period of 10 years.

“As regards a deprivation order in terms of section 39 of the 2006 Act, given that you recently transferred ownership of all of the dogs removed by the SSPCA to that charity, there is no need for me to make such an order.

“As regards compensation, your activities have caused considerable expense for the SSPCA. The Crown states that figure is over £354,000. I have considered whether some of your considerable assets should be used to compensate the SSPCA. I conclude however that as the legislation now stands, I do not have the power make any such order as part of the sentencing process.

“Finally, I think it is only fair to warn you that the Restriction of Liberty Orders are a direct alternative to prison and that should you breach either of the orders without good cause, I may revoke them and impose imprisonment instead.”