Long welcomes jail sentence in animal cruelty case

East Belfast MP Naomi Long has said she hopes the jail sentence handed to a man who admitted setting fire to a pet dog would result in less lenient sentences in future similar cases.

Alliance Deputy Leader Mrs Long was speaking after Andrew Richard Stewart was sentenced to 10 months for the killing of Cody, a three-year-old collie in August 2012. The animal was put down two weeks after being doused in accelerant and set alight by Stewart. Following her ordeal, her bones were visible through her burnt flesh.

Mr Stewart (23) of Wellington Parks, Moira, had previously denied the charge but changed his plea to guilty on the second day of his trial last month. In addition to the jail sentence, he will also spent 10 months on licence.

His co-accused, Jamie Downey (23) from Chestnut Hill Avenue, Moira, also received a six-month jail sentence for perverting the course of justice. They are the first custodial sentences to be imposed in Northern Ireland for animal cruelty offences.

“We have previously seen other cases where the guilty parties escaped jail sentences, much to the revulsion of all right-thinking people,” said Mrs Long.

“But this case now sets an important precedent, which other judges can look at when it comes to animal welfare issues. Whilst is not the maximum sentence available, it sends a strong message that cruelty towards any animals, not least family pets, will not be tolerated. Offenders can now expect to face the full force of the law.

“I think this also shows that public action in opposing previous non-custodial sentences has not been for nothing.

“My thoughts are with poor Cody’s owners, who have gone through a nightmare to even reach this point. They can take solace in the fact that their dog’s death, as heartbreaking as it was, will not have been in vain.”


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