The man who tortured a cat with boiling water and hot pokers, left it suffering in agony unable to eat or drink for 5 days, and then fed it alive to his dogs, was sentenced on May 2nd, 2017 at a court in South Chungcheon province, South Korea.
The atmosphere in the court was hostile; when his name was called, about a dozen people out of the 60 or so in the public gallery started hissing, shouting and cursing at him, imploring the judge to hand down a harsh sentence. The judge called for order and one older woman had to be removed by the bailiffs before the sentencing could continue. The judge was unhappy about the disturbance, but acknowledged that they had come to the court to show how strongly they felt about the cruelty done to the cat, and the criminal who did it.
At the time of the crime, the maximum penalty for animal abuse was a 10 million won fine and up to one year in prison. It has since been increased.
However, the defendant was given a four month suspended prison sentence, two years probation, 240 hours of community service, and a fine of 3 million won.
After the judge pronounced sentence, the courtroom erupted in angry shouts. Those who had petitioned for a harsh sentence were incensed over the inadequacy of the punishment.
The judge defended his decision by saying
I received a petition from many people who wanted a strong punishment, and I understand the seriousness of the case. Also, the defendant abused the animal in a cruel way without respect for its life, and violated the Animal Protection Act by posting images of abuse on the Internet. The defendant didn’t seem to take public criticism of his actions seriously, so I do not know if he is truly repentant. So, a prison sentence is inevitable, but the defendant is young and a first-offender, and we must consider the family environment.”
Many people, of course, asked the judge the obvious question, “How bad does the abuse have to be for a ten million won fine and one year imprisonment?”
A crowd of about 30—roughly half of those in the court room—followed the defendant as he was led from the courthouse by the bailiffs, shouting and crying all the way down the stairs and out into the parking lot.
The defendant tried to drive away in his truck, but the crowd surrounded it and wouldn’t let him go, trying to pull him out of the truck. A CARE staff member placed himself between the defendant and the crowd before any potential physical assault could took place. CARE does not endorse or condone any form of vigilante justice or retribution. Unable to drive away, he got out of his truck.
As the crowd railed against him—some spitting venom, and some gently but firmly imploring—to apologize, he initially offered excuses about having already expressed regret in the media. However, after about 10 minutes, he realized he wasn’t going to get away without offering a heartfelt apology on his knees in front of the crowd. This he did, several times.
By this time, the police had arrived, and wanting to bring things to a swift conclusion, extracted the defendant from the crowd and he drove away a few minutes later.
We were all understandably disappointed with the punishment given. We and other animal rights activists have campaigned long and hard to improve animal rights laws in South Korea. But, it is like a slap in the face if judges don’t actually impose heavier penalties on animal abusers.
There is obviously still a long way to go, and we will keep fighting for justice for those who can’t fight for themselves.
We would like to sincerely thank those who came to support us in the courtroom, and the police officers for their sensitive handling of the situation in the parking lot.