Man sentenced for animal cruelty after shocking attack on herring gull
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A man who picked up a herring gull and threw it into a brick wall has been convicted of animal cruelty.
At 2.20am on Saturday 13 August 2022, Richard Kitching was on St Thomas Street in Scarborough when he approached a flock of herring gull birds (commonly referred to as seagulls). He grabbed one, held it over his head, and began swinging it around. He then threw it into a brick wall, picked it up again and threw it across the road where it hit the ground and made no effort to move away.
By chance, a North Yorkshire Police officer and Scarborough Borough Council CCTV operator were watching St Thomas Street on camera at the time, and witnessed the incident in full. The officer attended the area, and arrested Kitching. In addition, several members of the public came forward to speak to the police about their distress at what they had seen.
One witness described approaching the bird after the incident, and moving it away so it was not hurt again. He described the bird as slowly flapping its wings, having no energy, and unresponsive to his presence.
When 43-year-old Kitching, from Scarborough, was interviewed later by police and an RSPCA inspector, he said he had been drunk and was sorry for what he had done.
He was charged with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, taking a wild bird, and a public order offence of causing harassment, alarm or distress.
At Scarborough Magistrates Court on Monday 6 February 2023, Kitching pleaded guilty and was given a 32-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. He must also pay fines and costs totalling £172, and has been disqualified from keeping any animals for 12 months.
PC Lee Holmes, from North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Taskforce, led the investigation. He said: “Kitching’s actions that night were cruel and shocking. The footage of the incident is sickening, and it’s almost beyond belief that someone could behave in this way. It’s not surprising that other members of the public were appalled by what they saw, and I’m grateful to those who provided witness statements to ensure Kitching could be brought to justice.
“Although some may see herring gulls as pests, they are sadly a species in decline, and nothing can justify cruelty towards them. I hope this prosecution sends a strong message to people that mistreating these birds will not be tolerated, and we will take robust action against those who do.”
RSPCA Inspector and National Wildlife Coordinator Geoff Edmond said: “I am appalled that this horrific incident has taken place. This gull has been tossed about like an object with total disregard for this bird's feelings. It will have suffered pain and distress as a result of this unnecessary attack.
“We must take deliberate attacks on wildlife very seriously and this can be achieved by working in partnership with the Police and Crown Prosecution Service. I would like to thank North Yorkshire Police for the thorough investigation that has been undertaken to place this case before the court.”