GREYHOUND KILLER David Smith is due to appear at Durham Crown Court at 10.30am today (Friday, March 16th) to be sentenced for burying the bodies of greyhounds on his land without a permit.
Smith pleaded guilty to the charge at Durham Magistrates Court on February 16th, but the case was sent to the Crown Court for sentencing, after magistrates said they could not impose a sufficiently severe penalty.
As reported previously, the prosecution was brought by the Environment Agency after police and the RSPCA ruled that the 57-year-old would not face criminal charges in relation to the destruction of the dogs as they were killed humanely with a bolt gun, which Smith was licensed to use. There was no evidence to support charges of animal cruelty in his despatch of the dogs.
Magistrates could have imposed a maximum fine of £20,000 or six months in prison, but they took the decision to send him to Durham Crown Court instead. A crown court judge has far greater sentencing powers - and the maximum punishment Smith now faces is five years in prison or an unlimited fine.
The Environment Agency brought the prosecution under regulations, introduced in 2000 following an EU directive, that are designed to reduce pollution.
Smith, 57, who said he has received up to 30 death threats, arrived early at the magistrates' court last month to avoid placard-bearing protestors from the greyhound welfare group, Greyhound Action.
He was taken away in a dark car after pleading guilty to a single charge of disposing of waste - dead dogs - without a permit under the Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations.
When the story broke following an undercover investigation in the Sunday Times last July, Smith was said to have killed and buried up to 10,000 greyhounds behind his home in Northdene Terrace, Seaham, County Durham, over many years.
But magistrates were told the figure was far lower, and that in the past couple of years Smith had been destroying ‘around two a week’ for a fee of £10.
Bench chairwoman Vivian Lowe said: ‘We are of the view this was a commercial operation and it was going on for a considerable length of time and was escalating in recent years.
‘We feel our powers of punishment are insufficient and we are committing you to the crown court for sentence.’
Easington District Council declined to comment on the case until Smith has been sentenced.