Sentencing proceedings delayed in animal-cruelty case

These dogs were among 53 seized from a home in Prospect by authorities during an investigation in May this year. Last year, the Department of Agriculture dealt with almost 70 reports of animal cruelty or neglect. - Photo: RCIPS

Sentencing proceedings for a woman facing animal-cruelty charges have been delayed over a dispute about the facts of a plea deal.

Appearing in the Summary Court on Monday, Sylvia Felicity Lewis, 56, was due to be sentenced for five counts of animal cruelty.

The charges stem from a police raid at a Prospect home in May last year, during which 53 dogs were seized.

Three of the five charges are blanket charges, meaning they cover all 53 dogs, while one charge speaks specifically to a shih tzu/poodle mix and another refers to a rottweiler.

After the Department of Agriculture seized the animals, 11 dogs either died or were euthanised. Several of the dogs that had to be put down tested positive for the parvo virus – a deadly and highly contagious canine disease.

Lewis was supposed to be sentenced on Monday, but minutes before Magistrate Kirsty-Ann Gunn was to hand down the sentence, John Furniss, representing Lewis, said not much progress could be made “as there are details in the [social inquiry report] that will require further discussion between the defence and the prosecution”.

Furniss told the magistrate that, in the report, Lewis disagreed with points that were expressed within the agreed facts, upon which the plea deal was based.

The plea deal came into effect in March. At the time, Lewis entered a guilty plea to all the charges. In exchange for her admission of guilt and foregoing a trial, the prosecution told the court it was prepared to proceed on one of the five counts – denying the animals veterinary care. The remaining charges were to be left on file as part of the deal.

“The original agreement was that the prosecution would move forward on the single count, but do so on the agreed full facts of all five counts,” said prosecutor Darlene Oko. “While the prosecution is willing to make minor amendments to the agreed facts, we are not willing to water down the facts.”

In light of the dispute, Gunn deferred the matter to the next day, Tuesday, 25 Aug. However, on that day, the courtroom in which the matter was scheduled to take place was occupied by a different magistrate presiding over an unrelated matter.

As a result, Lewis’s sentencing hearing was delayed until 1 Oct. A psychiatric report was ordered ahead of the proceedings.

Lewis was released on bail.

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