SPCA welcomes jail term for dairy farmer
Home detention sentence for animal cruelty quashed. Maryanne Twentyman reports.
A Waikato farmer will spend this weekend in the care of his Waihi church, before beginning a prison sentence for cruelty to animals.
In the High Court at Rotorua this week, Justice John Priestley quashed a home detention sentence handed down to Waikino farmer Lourens Barend Erasmus in the Waihi District Court in October, substituting it with a two-year jail term.
The home detention had been appealed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Erasmus had pleaded guilty to three charges of wilfully ill treating more than 100 cows in his dairy herd - breaking the tails of 115 and the bones of others by hitting them with milking cups and steel pipes.
The upgraded sentence has been commended by SPCA chief executive Robyn Kippenberger, who said the outcome sent a clear message to anyone mistreating animals.
"If you look at the similarity between animal and human cruelty you would not expect someone who had vastly abused children to be allowed contact with children again for a considerable length of time," she said.
"Therefore we think this is very responsible sentencing."
It was not just about the sentence - it was about protection of animals that could end up in Erasmus' care, she said.
"This is a crime of violence just like domestic violence and shows a level of cruelty that was extreme. A sentence of home detention would enable him to do that again," she said.
Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said Erasmus' offending was the worst type of animal cruelty of its kind dealt with by any of the country's courts.
He described Erasmus' actions as "wilful, intentional and repetitive", emphasising the maximum penalty for such offending was five years' imprisonment or a fine of up to $100,000.
His lawyer, Harry Edward, said Erasmus suffered from a psychological condition and associated mental health problems.
Justice Priestley deferred the start of the jail term until Monday and bailed him to his pastor's Waihi home.
Yesterday Pastor Alan Scott told The Times Erasmus, and his family, had been attending the Waihi Baptist Church for the past several months and were regular parishioners at Sunday services.
"As a pastor and a dairy farmer I have expressed my strong disapproval to Mr Erasmus of his actions and agree with the need for a sentence that reflects the severity of the crime.
"In spite of this, I along with the church also believe in caring for and standing with people as they face struggles in life."
Pastor Scott said Erasmus had a delightful family who were devastated by the incident.
"Many within the church community have offered help for this family in a variety of ways," he said.