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Saturday 27 February 2021
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Dublin teen accused of torturing hedgehog in 35-minute attack spared custodial sentence

Judge Treasa Kelly placed the schoolboy on strict supervised probation for nine months.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/supakrit tirayasupasin

A THEN 13-YEAR-old Dublin boy, who showed no remorse when he tortured a defenceless hedgehog to death in a 35-minute attack, has been spared a custodial sentence.

Judge Treasa Kelly placed the schoolboy on strict supervised probation for nine months.

The boy, now aged 14, was accompanied by his parents to his sentence hearing at the Dublin Children’s Court today.

The teen failed to take part in a restorative justice programme involving rehabilitation activities directly connected to the type of crime committed. It is aimed at first-time offenders and could have left him without a recorded conviction.

He said, however, he will go to school daily and that he planned to quit smoking cannabis before Christmas.

The “mutilated” hedgehog was kicked, and a stick was used to stab and “hit it like a golf ball”, more than 130 times, the court heard when the boy pleaded guilty to animal cruelty offences.

It happened on the grounds of a north Dublin school on a night in September last year.

The boy showed no remorse and ran off laughing afterwards, the court had heard. He cannot be named because he is a minor.

A pre-sentence probation report on the youth was furnished to the judge who had said the offence gave the court cause for concern. Special consideration was given to a restorative justice element because of his age.

Defence solicitor Brian Keenan said that approach “did not go terribly well”. “I think there was something in there he did not want to return to,” he added.

A psychological report was obtained to address his emotional and intellectual maturity. It indicated the boy, “did not have the tools to process difficult and uncomfortable emotions”.

Keenan asked the judge to note, however, that the boy had engaged well over the past five months with his probation officer who recommended continued supervision.

Judge Kelly finalised the case with a nine-month probation bond. She stressed to the teen that he must continue to accept guidance from his probation officer to divert him from re-offending.

He has returned to education and must go every day, she warned.

He was told he had to engage with child mental health and therapeutic services, and a youth mentoring project to use his leisure time in a good manner.

The boy replied “yes” when each term was read out to him.

The judge said he had the support of his parents and told him he has to go to drug abuse counselling, because of cannabis abuse.

“I’m trying to get off it before Christmas,” the teen told her.

Breaching the terms could lead to the case being brought back to court which could impose a custodial sentence instead.

Guilty plea

The teen had pleaded guilty injuring a protected wild animal, and causing or permitting unnecessary suffering endangering the health and welfare of an animal.

The charges were contrary to the Wildlife Act and the Animal Health and Welfare Act.

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Garda Gemma Twohig said she received a report from the school. It had CCTV footage of the animal being attacked for just over half an hour until it stopped moving.

The video clearly showed the boy striking the animal more than 130 times, “kicking it 13 times, hitting it like a golf ball 42 times, poked 24 times, stabbed 21 times, and 45 strikes over its head with the stick”.

“Following the attack he could be seen running away laughing,” she told the court.

A wooden stake was found on a green near the scene. Gardaí established it was used in the attack because the hedgehog’s spines were “embedded in the wooden stick”.

A vet later examined the dead animal’s body and found it had been mutilated and left with open head and leg wounds.

The teenager, who was identified from the security camera video, made admissions after his arrest, but “showed zero remorse for his cruelty to the hedgehog”, said Garda Twohig.

He admitted other unrelated offences.

He was caught possessing a brand new stolen motorbike and he stole €30 from a man outside a Garda station, on dates in October last year.

He was also involved in public order offences on two earlier dates in 2019, when he was aged 12 years.

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