Two boys plead guilty to animal cruelty charges over college break-in

Two boys have pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges after more than 20 animals were killed during a break-in at an environmental college, causing £40,000 worth of damage.

The children, aged 11 and 12, admitted causing criminal damage and unnecessary suffering to animals after rabbits, snakes and birds were killed in west London last month.

The basis of the boys’ guilty pleas on Thursday was disputed by the prosecution which said that it absolved them of any culpability for the deaths of the animals.

Both boys also pleaded guilty to a charge of causing criminal damage at Gunnersbury Park’s Putt in the Park mini golf course.

A break-in had been reported at Capel Manor College in Gunnersbury Park on February 25, during which staff said that animals had been killed and enclosures damaged.

The boys also stole various animals from the environmental college including ferrets, guinea pigs, and three snakes, Uxbridge Magistrates’ Youth Court heard.

Police had found three children in a changing room of Gunnersbury Park sports centre playing with a snake.

A barn owl called Shiraz escaped, but has since been recovered at a warehouse near Heathrow Airport and is being cared for at the college’s Enfield campus.

Capel Manor College incident
The barn owl Shiraz (Capel Manor College/PA)

Mr Khuttan told the court: “They entered the areas they should not be in and can be seen throwing animals around, slamming them on the floor, stamping on them and that ultimately leads to the death of over 20 of those animals and approximately £40,000 of damage to the cages.”

He added that he disputed the basis of the boys’ guilty pleas: “They are absolving themselves of practically any responsibility for the injuries and deaths of the animals.”

Mr Khuttan said the boys were “of good character”, but that the offences represented a “significant jump into criminality”.

Dafne Moran Toha, defending the 11-year-old boy, said his behaviour was caused by his “lack of maturity” and “very young age”.

Ms Toha said: “They did not have any intention to hurt them. What happened is they opened the doors and some dogs managed to gain entry.”

She added that the boy was “very remorseful” and his actions were “completely out of character”.

Ms Toha said: “The mistake was made out of innocence and a situation he did not know how to handle.”

She added that the basis of the guilty plea “would not make a manifest difference” to the sentence.

Fitzroy Lee, defending the 12-year-old boy, said his client was in “exactly the same situation” and had spent a “lengthy amount of time in the police station” because of the arrest.

Lead magistrate Dr Prabhjot Kaur Basra told the boys: “We’ve heard early guilty pleas, however, the basis of your guilty pleas are disputed and not agreed by the prosecution.”

She said the court needed to understand “why these offences occurred” and that the boys would work with the youth offending service “so they’re not in trouble again”.

Dr Basra added that the court felt a Newton hearing to discuss the basis of plea was not necessary because of the “young age” of the boys and the fact they were first-time offenders who had “pleaded guilty on the first possible occasion”.

The boys were released on bail and will be sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Youth Court on April 4.

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