New Zealand Police v Witehira [2017] NZDC 16476

Published 02 February 2018

Sentencing — wilfully ill-treating an animal causing it to die — driving with excess breath alcohol — third or subsequent — driving whilst disqualified — EBA — Erickson v Ministry for Primary Industries [2017] NZCA 271. Whilst on bail for charges relating to driving with excess breath alcohol and driving whilst disqualified the defendant became upset with the victim over the unavailability of food that he wanted for lunch. The defendant picked up a pen hammer and hit the victim's puppy in the head eight times with the weapon. As a result of the injuries the dog sustained multiple fractures to the head, severe brain swelling, bruising to the eyes and heavy bleeding from the nose and mouth. The dog had to be euthanised as a result of those injuries. The court identified the ill-treatment of the dog as the lead offence. The primary aggravating factors included the defendant being the lead offender, the number of strikes, the seriousness of the injuries, a degree of planning in having to go to get the hammer. Secondary aggravating factors included the use of a weapon, strikes to the head, the fact that the defendant was in a position of trust and the impact on the defendant's son. The court also noted that the drink driving charge was the defendant's eight charge for similar offending; and that it was also the defendant's third conviction for driving whilst disqualified in a one year period. The defendant was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on the charge of ill-treatment of an animal, and five months' imprisonment on the charge of driving with excess breath alcohol to be served cumulatively. On the charge of driving whilst disqualified the defendant was sentenced to five months' imprisonment concurrent. The defendant was sentenced to a total term of imprisonment of two years and five months. Judgment Date: 26 July 2017.