Animal cruelty charges against a West Coast man accused of setting a cat on fire have been dismissed.
The man, who has name suppression because he is being prosecuted on other charges, allegedly burned a cat alive at North Beach, Cobden, in May 2014
He denied the charge in two days of hearings in the Greymouth District Court last month. Judge Brian Callaghan released his decision yesterday.
The defendant was charged with driving himself and friends Hayden Growcott and Jason Rowling out to the beach and setting fire to the cat, named in court as 'Cat X'.
Growcott is currently serving a two-year and five-month jail sentence on charges of drugs and receiving, as well as two animal cruelty charges after he set alight another cat, named Midnight, and cut the paw off another with a tomahawk.
In his verdict Judge Callaghan questioned the reliability of Growcott's evidence in court, given that his offending had come to light after the defendant had informed on him.
"Clearly, Growcott had reason to be upset with the defendant for informing upon him," the judge said.
However, when asked by lawyer Marcus Zintl during the hearing if he cared about whether or not the defendant was found guilty, he replied that "I don't really give a f*** what happens today".
Through all his evidence Growcott had said he had been charged, convicted and sentenced with an offence relating to Cat X, the judge said.
However, during the course of the case it had come as a "complete surprise" when police revealed that Growcott had not been charged with any offence relating to Cat X.
Prosecutor Kathy Bell suggested that Growcott might have been "confused or mistaken".
"I would have to say that such a mistake (innocent or otherwise) on his part leads me to have questions about his reliability," Judge Callaghan said.
There was no evidence to support Ms Bell's suggestion that Growcott had been mistaken, "other than it being a guess".
The judge said he also had concerns about the reliability of Rowling's testimony, as during his evidence he told the court he was "100 per cent sure" the defendant had set fire to Cat X. Yet, cross-examined about his statement to police last year he agreed he had accused Growcott of burning the cat.
Judge Callaghan said some of the defendant's evidence was "reliable", given that his "informing on Growcott led him to actually admit his guilt on the two charges he was convicted on".
While it appeared that the defendant "could well have been involved" in the cat burning incident, there was a clear implication that he might not have been, the judge said in dismissing the case.
- Greymouth Star