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Newport Man’s Attempt to Reopen Animal Cruelty Case Dismissed by Court

On Thursday, 20 June, at Newport Magistrates Court, James Hamill’s application to reopen his case concerning the severe neglect of his dog, Bella, was dismissed.

The 37-year-old from Forge Close, Caerleon, Newport, had previously admitted to causing unnecessary suffering to Bella, a West Highland Terrier.

The offences occurred over a two-year period in Pontypool, from January 1, 2021, to December 31, 2022.

Bella endured extensive neglect, resulting in significant fur loss, dry eye, and ultimately, blindness. The severity of her condition led to the heartbreaking decision to euthanise her.

Vets involved in her care expressed horror at her state, with one stating, “When I first saw Bella I was horrified at the state she was in. I rarely see a dog that is in such poor condition. My first observations were drawn to how little fur Bella had and her poor skin condition.”

Mr. Hamill was initially sentenced to a 12-month community order, required to complete 180 hours of unpaid work, banned from keeping animals for two years, and ordered to pay £895 in costs and a surcharge.

The application to reopen the case was made under section 142 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980, which allows magistrates to rectify errors by reopening cases.

Mr. Hamill’s solicitors, KMC Legal & Finance, argued that he was under pressure to plead guilty, that evidence had not been properly considered, and that his previous legal representation was inadequate.

District Judge Toms, after considering written representations from the prosecution, dismissed the application, stating it was effectively out of time, Mr. Hamill had adequate time to consider his plea, and reopening the case was not in the interest of justice. She concluded that no errors had occurred in the original proceedings.

Serena James, the lead investigator from the Animal Welfare Investigations Project (AWIP), commented after the hearing, “Bella hadn’t received the veterinary care she so obviously needed, to the point where her euthanasia was necessary.

“A responsible owner would have recognised the seriousness of the situation and acted in a timely manner, but Hamill failed to do so and Bella suffered unnecessarily for nearly two years as a result.”

Jacob Lloyd, Executive Director of AWIP, stated, “We will always look into concerns that are raised about animal welfare. We do not take the decision to prosecute lightly.”

“All of our prosecution decisions follow the same guidance as the Crown Prosecution Service. This requires there to be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and for it to be in the public interest to prosecute.”

“This case was reviewed by a solicitor and a barrister who agreed, with the support of an independent veterinary surgeon, that the evidential test was met. We are glad that this case is now concluded.”

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