Woman jailed for microwaving cat
Wednesday 14 December 2011
A mother of three who killed a kitten in a microwave in revenge for its owner reporting her abusive partner to police was today jailed for 168 days.
Magistrates told Gina Robins, 31, her offending was so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.
Robins put the 10-week-old pet in the microwave after using the oven to warm food for her 18-month-old son, Oliver.
She carried out the sickening attack on the cat while at the home of its owner Sarah Knutton - days after her then friend had reported an incident to police involving Robins' partner outside the same house.
Robins, of Salisbury Avenue, Torquay, Devon, had denied a single charge of animal cruelty but was convicted following a trial last month.
It was standing room only in courtroom one at Torquay Magistrates' Court as members of Robins' family, Miss Knutton's family and cat lovers watched proceedings.
Liz Clyne, chairwoman of the bench, told the defendant: "Miss Robins you have been convicted of one count of animal cruelty which resulted in the suffering and the death of a 10-week-old kitten.
"We have seen little remorse for the death of the kitten or the trauma caused to your former friend Miss Knutton.
"We have taken into account that you have no previous convictions. Nevertheless we are sending you to prison for a total of 168 days.
"You will be disqualified from keeping animals for a period of 10 years."
Robins, who wore a red cardigan, blue top and glasses, showed no emotion as she was led away to start her sentence by two dock officers.
During Robins' trial, magistrates were told that Miss Knutton, who is hard of hearing, was able to hear a noise "like a crisp packet being popped", followed by a loud "screeching" while in the lounge, separated from the kitchen by a hallway and two doors.
After the kitten died, Robins sent her a text message the next day, calling time on their friendship and saying: "Remember the saying 'What goes around comes around'? It has started already to bite you in the arse. The cat? Karma."
Robins claimed the microwave, which starts automatically when the door shuts, was accidentally turned on by one of the cats after the kitten got inside.
But magistrates found her evidence during her day-long trial "far-fetched" and "inconsistent".
The court was told the kitten died on February 15 last year, when Robins had gone to her friend's house in Higher Cadewell Lane with Oliver, days after an incident outside the house.
The previous Friday, Robins arrived at the house after Miss Knutton had gone out to a party, leaving her teenage daughter with a babysitter.
Robins' then partner of eight years, Matt Taylor, arrived later at the house and when the babysitter opened the door, barged past her and refused to leave without her. She eventually agreed to leave.
Miss Knutton reported the incident to the police with, she told the court, the agreement of Robins. But Robins then sent her friend a text message saying she had "made it worse" with Taylor.
Despite this, Robins went to the house on the Monday and went into the kitchen to heat the food. She denied hearing any strange noises apart from a loud slam as the kitchen door shut.
Robins went into the kitchen a second time, to investigate the noises her friend heard and returned saying "oh my God".
Miss Knutton went into the kitchen thinking something had fallen on one of her seven cats or three kittens, shut in the kitchen to keep them away from the baby.
She found the black and white kitten dead in the 770-watt appliance on a work surface and was sick in the sink.
Iain O'Donnell, prosecuting for the RSPCA, said at the trial: "It is our case that the defendant put the kitten in the microwave and cooked it to death.
"The defendant was in there (the kitchen) for a couple of minutes and came back with some baby food. Having come back ... made remarkably little effort to feed the baby the food she had prepared. She was jumpy and agitated."
Robins denied killing the animal and said her "karma" message afterwards was an over-reaction to a message from Miss Knutton asking her to choose between her relationship of eight years with Mr Taylor and their friendship.
She was unable to produce evidence that this message existed.
Often bursting into tears, Robins also denied claims that she fled the house after the event, saying she stayed for around an hour, trying to work out what happened, though she admitted sitting with Miss Knutton in silence.
"I was so taken aback by what had happened that I could not do anything. I couldn't move, I was in shock," she said.
Asked what she had discussed with Miss Knutton, she said: "She had so many cats in the kitchen and they were allowed on the side.
"The door (to the kitchen) slammed shut while I was feeding Oliver. The little one (cat) has smelt food and got in the microwave and the big one has shut him in there."
But Miss Knutton, giving evidence, claimed the kittens were too small to even get on the work surface, evidence the magistrates said was "consistent" and "unwavering".
Robins also denied going to investigate the noises, saying all she heard was the kitchen door slamming shut.
She said she went out to put the unfinished baby food jar back in the microwave, to store it in case she needed to feed Oliver later, because he was refusing to feed.
Regarding the text message, Robins said: "I didn't mean it to come across as harsh as it did. I was just upset that she wanted to end our friendship.
"She gave me an ultimatum to choose between my friendship with her and my partner. I was quite upset.
"They didn't see eye to eye. She didn't like the way he spoke to me."
The court was told that when the kitten was examined its claws were drawn, suggesting it had attempted to resist what was being done.
At today's hearing, Mr O'Donnell briefly summarised the facts and added: "This is a very bad case.
"The intentional infliction of suffering is very disgusting."
He applied for the £400.80 costs of the veterinary surgeon, who compiled a report into the case, to be met from central funds.
Mr O'Donnell also asked for a contribution of £500 from Robins, who receives benefits, towards the RSPCA's "high" costs in bringing the case to court.
However, the magistrates said that as Robins was being jailed they would not impose a separate costs order.
Philip Miles, defending, said it was a one-off incident and "out of character" for someone who had never been in court before.
"This has been a completely new experience for her," he said.
Mr Miles said Robins had seen her GP regarding a medical problem, which he did not disclose in court, and had been "medicated".
"I will say on her behalf now that she understands and accepts the manner of this offence and that it breaches the custody threshold and I think the only issue for you is whether that should be an immediate custodial sentence or whether it should be a suspended sentence.
"I am going to ask you to suspend it."
Mr Miles said there was already an online social media campaign against Robins and that things have been "difficult and torrid" for her children.
"She has already suffered a great deal," he said.
"Clearly her life is going to change as a result of this sentence today.
"An immediate custodial sentence would be devastating to her and would have a devastating effect upon her mental health and for the three children for which she is the primary carer."
This was the second case in the last 18 months in south Devon involving a cat being put in a microwave, although it survived.
Colin Sherlock, 44, of Newton Abbot, was jailed for 126 days in November last year for his part in the torture of an animal at a house in Teignmouth, which also involved two teenagers.
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