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Kitten cruelty sentence cut

Date: Wed, 16 Mar 2005 23:00:51 -0500

By Kim Arlington

March 16, 2005

From: AAP

A TEENAGER jailed for 16 months for setting a kitten on fire has had his
sentence reduced on appeal to 100 hours of community service.

Matthew Staines, 18, of Tregear, was found guilty of aggravated cruelty
to the 10-week-old kitten, named William.

William was doused with petrol and set alight at Mount Druitt, in
Sydney's west, in January.

He was found cowering under a house with second degree burns and later
died after an operation to reconstruct his skin.  

Staines was sentenced last month in Penrith Local Court to a minimum
eight months behind bars.

He immediately appealed against the decision to the District Court,
which last week overturned the maximum 16-month jail term and ordered
him to perform 100 hours' community service.

The decision outraged the RSPCA and NSW Opposition, which said Staines
should have gone to jail.

Staff were shocked and frustrated by the "heartbreaking" appeal
decision, RSPCA NSW Chief Inspector Don Robinson said today.

"For the safety of other animals, this individual should be behind
bars," he said.

"This outcome makes the RSPCA wonder at the community's perception of
our ability to safeguard animals and to alleviate their pain and

"Perhaps a stronger penalty may have acted as a deterrent to others
considering torturing animals for a bit of 'fun'."

William was burned less than two weeks after closed circuit television
footage captured an attack on an eight-week-old kitten at Seven Hills
railway station, also in Sydney's west.

The kitten, named Shelley, was allegedly stoned, stomped on and run over
with a bicycle.

Christopher Leigh Herreros, 18, and a 15-year-old youth were charged
with aggravated animal cruelty over the incident and are due to reappear
in court this month.

NSW Opposition Leader John Brogden also criticised the appeal decision,
saying Staines had committed an evil act and should have been sent to

"One hundred hours of community service is a slap on the wrist for what
is a very cruel, and in fact evil form of behaviour, which should be
punished as it was intended to, by a jail sentence," Mr Brogden said.