'Seal basher' found guilty
The Marlborough man accused of wilfully ill-treating and killing 23 protected seals has been found guilty on two of three charges.
Jemaal Peter Roy Large, 38, appeared in the Blenheim District Court yesterday.
Judge Peter Hobbs found him guilty on two representative charges of killing adult female and male fur seals under the Animal Welfare Act. He was found not guilty on a third charge of killing seal pups.
Large appeared before Judge Hobbs in a judge-alone trial in Nelson earlier this month. He denied the charges relating to an incident at Ohau Point, north of Kaikoura, in November 2010, claiming he killed the fur seals but did not cause them to suffer unreasonable pain.
In his written decision, Judge Hobbs said there was no dispute Large and his associate, Jason Godsiff, killed the seals by hitting them on their heads with a galvanised steel pipe. It was "simply not plausible" the 15 adult seals were killed instantaneously or rendered unconscious before dying, even if Large had the necessary skill and precision.
He was satisfied Large wilfully ill-treated at least one or more female seals and at least one male seal. "I am also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Large had no lawful justification or excuse for such ill-treatment." Large was found not guilty of wilfully ill-treating and killing eight seal pups because it could not be proved they suffered. A pup's skull was softer and less developed and because of this softness it was possible to instantly kill them with a single blow to the head, Judge Hobbs said.
In his trial, Large had denied wilfully ill-treating the seals, claiming he was doing nothing more than hunting or killing animals in a wild state which was not illegal under the Animal Welfare Act. Using a definition that some kind of challenge was required for the person to be hunting, Judge Hobbs said he was satisfied Large and Godsiff had not been hunting.
Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said Large had wilfully ill-treated the seals and intentionally assisted and encouraged the wilful ill-treatment of the seals killed by Godsiff. The Animal Welfare Act defined the ill-treatment of animals as "causing the animal to suffer, by any act or omission, pain or distress that . . . is unreasonable or unnecessary".
Large and Godsiff had talked about stopping at Ohau Point for the sole purpose of eradicating what they regarded as pests, he said. He was sure Large was aware hitting the seals with the pipe would cause them pain.
Godsiff, of Renwick, previously admitted the charges and was sentenced to two years prison, later reduced to eight months home detention on appeal. As a sentence of two years or less was possible for Large, monitored home detention had to be considered, Judge Hobbs said. He ordered a pre-sentencing report and remanded Large to October 30.
- The Marlborough Express