Actress guilty of animal cruelty

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A FORMER actress turned horse-breeder was convicted of 14 charges of causing unnecessary cruelty to animals yesterday. Olive McFarland, who acted with Sean Connery in the film Frightened City in 1961, was banned from keeping horses for three years and given a one-month suspended prison sentence by a stipendiary magistrate in Newmarket, Suffolk.

McFarland, who lives at a farm in Creeting St Mary, Suffolk, denied each of the 14 allegations during a week-long hearing. The court heard that inspectors from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called at the farm in October and found her 24 thoroughbreds malnourished and in generally poor condition. A foal was found lying in its excrement with its legs splayed and had to be put down immediately.

Last night, RSPCA inspectors welcomed the court's decision and said it would serve as a warning to other breeders.

"This is one of the worst cases of neglect I have had to deal with during my 11 years as an inspector," said Mark Thompson, the RSPCA's chief inspector.

McFarland, who was also ordered to pay pounds 10,000 towards prosecution costs, denied neglecting her horses. She said the animals were not malnourished, adding that they were not in work and therefore the food she gave them was enough.

Vets had advised her to destroy at least one of the animals before the RSPCA inspection. But McFarland said the horse was needed as evidence in a civil dispute she was involved in with the Ministry of Defence. She said some of her horses had been harmed by low-flying jets buzzing over her farm and she was claiming compensation from the MoD.