A woman who was caught on CCTV dumping a cat in a wheelie bin was fined £250 today after pleading guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to the animal.
Former bank worker Mary Bale, 45, from Coventry, became an international hate figure in August after CCTV footage emerged of her stroking the four-year-old tabby before picking it up by the scruff of its neck and dropping it into the bin.
She admitted the charge of causing unnecessary suffering when she appeared at Coventry Magistrates' Court today.
A second charge, of failing to provide the cat with a suitable environment, contrary to the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, was dropped.
Bale, who appeared close to tears, was fined £250 plus £15 victim surcharge and costs of £1,171.4p.
She was also banned from keeping or owning animals for the next five years.
District judge Caroline Goulborn told Bale the potential of the offence to have caused harm to the cat was substantial, but in reality it had not been hurt.
She said: "The media interest in this case has resulted in you being vilified in some quarters and I have taken that into account."
Judge Goulborn, who was told Bale's elderly father was gravely ill at the time, added: "I accept that you were in a stressful situation at the time, but that's no excuse for what you did."
The court heard that Bale - who had faced a maximum fine of £20,000 or up six months' imprisonment - could provide no answer as to why she had acted in such an "impulsive and irrational" way.
Bale, whose father died last Thursday, left the court without comment in a taxi which was surrounded by photographers before it drove away.
Outside court, RSPCA Inspector Nicky Foster said she hoped the substantial costs order made against the defendant and the ban on keeping animals would act as a deterrent.
The official, who insisted that the charity would still have prosecuted Bale if the incident had not been captured on camera, said: "The cat in this case has been extremely lucky to come out unharmed and with no lasting injuries.
"She (Bale) said in court that she doesn't know why she has done it, so she has no excuses.
"The magistrates have looked at the case and I think it's a very fair decision."
The court heard that the cat, named Lola, was trapped for around 15 hours overnight after being thrown into the bin in Coventry on the evening of Saturday August 21.
Earlier, Nick Sutton, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, invited Miss Goulborn to watch footage of the incident on a lap-top computer.
Grey-haired Bale, of St Michael's Road, Coventry, sat with her head bowed as Mr Sutton outlined the events in the film, including moments when she checked to ensure no-one was looking.
After the footage ended, Mr Sutton told Miss Goulborn: "That in essence is the case.
"The defendant lives three streets away, a relatively short distance, from the home of the owners of the cat, who were not known to her."
Lola's owners had only found the cat the following morning when the animal could be heard crying.
Mr Sutton added that Lola, which was in a distressed state, had now been "rehabilitated" and had no lasting injury.
David Murray, defending, said Bale had thought at length about her actions and could provide no explanation to the court.
At the time of the offence, she was walking from her mother's home to her own home, and had often stopped to stroke Lola.
Mr Murray said: "The court will of course be concerned about why this matter happened.
"Miss Bale, daily, almost hourly, for the past two months has asked herself that very question."
Mr Murray added that Bale - whose father was admitted to hospital following a fall at his home shortly before the incident - was suffering from anxiety and depression and had resigned from her job after 27 years of service.
Outside court, Mr Murray stressed that Bale wished to apologise for her actions and "bitterly regretted" what she had done.
"For the ten days before this incident, she (Bale) and her mother had been visiting daily her father, who was in a critical condition at Coventry's Walsgrave Hospital.
"He had suffered a fall. She was under tremendous strain and has since been diagnosed as suffering from depression.
"Despite a lengthy period of soul-searching she cannot still explain her behaviour and wishes to again repeat her apology to the owners of Lola.
"For a moment's aberration she has paid a significant price. She has received hate-mail, abusive telephone messages and death threats.
"Sadly, her father passed away last Thursday and she now wishes to be with her mother and family and offer them support during this period of grief."