Case Snapshot
Case ID: 16859
Classification: Beating
Animal: marine animal (wild)
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Defense(s): Bill Dawkins, Richard Smith, John Fraser
Judge(s): Stephen O'Driscoll,Jane Farish, Kevin Phillips

Images for this Case

Wednesday, Oct 27, 2010

Disposition: Convicted
Case Images: 2 files available

» Michael William Mathews
» Harley David McKenzie
» Phillip Ray Horrell

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Three men who viciously attacked a protected leopard seal by throwing rocks at it and dragging it down a beach were undone by placing their photos on Facebook.

Michael William Mathews, 23, Harley David McKenzie, 20, and Phillip Ray Horrell, 24, appeared before Judge Jane Farish in the Invercargill District Court yesterday charged with taking a leopard seal and injuring it on or about October 27.

The attack, which happened near Rowellan Burn, at Te Waewae Bay, and carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail or a $250,000 fine, was detailed by Department of Conservation principal compliance officer Alan Christie.

Mr Christie told the court the three men, all shearers of Tuatapere, were driving past the beach when they spotted the seal and stopped to get a closer look.

Horrell filmed the seal while the two others forcefully threw rocks the size of fists at it to try to antagonise it into chasing them, he said.

Rocks struck the seal multiple times, including at least twice in the head, and the seal appeared to lose consciousness at one stage, he said.

After stopping the filming Horrell and McKenzie then dragged the injured seal down the beach, before pictures were taken of two of the men posing beside it with wide smiles and thumbs up, he said.

The photos were placed in a file titled "Good Times" by Horrell and then uploaded to Facebook, which attracted DOC's attention, Mr Christie said.

Horrell's lawyer Bill Dawkins said Horrell did not participate in the actions as much as the other men and could be heard at the time telling them to stop.

However, Judge Farish said Horrell was more worried about his personal safety than harming the seal and during the video he could be heard laughing and saying "It's f-ed already" and "It's really f-ed now".

Horrell was getting "his kicks loading it on to his Facebook page" and the actions of all three men were appalling and barbaric, Judge Farish said. "The animal was clearly distressed.

"You didn't show any humanity to the animal on that afternoon.

"It was a barbaric act."

Matthews' lawyer Richard Smith told the court Matthews said it was "the dumbest thing I have ever done and really regret it".

Horrell was fined $5000 and Matthews was find $7000.

McKenzie, who has a previous conviction for animal cruelty, was remanded to November 12 for sentence.

Judge Farish said if the leopard seal had died then she would have had no qualms with sending all three men to jail.

Case Updates

A repeat animal abuser is now in jail but the Department of Conservation needs help to solve the killing of two other mammals in the south.

Harley David McKenzie, 20, of Tuatapere, begins his four-month spell in jail this morning after appearing before Judge Kevin Phillips in the Invercargill District Court for taking a leopard seal and injuring it with two friends last year.

He is the first person in New Zealand to be sentenced to jail for attacking a leopard seal.

After the hearing, DOC Southland compliance and law enforcement ranger Kelwyn Osborn said he was sickened by what McKenzie had done, but there were worse cases in Southland that had not been solved.

Another leopard seal and a sea lion were found shot dead in the Catlins this year, but DOC had no way of working out who killed them so no charges were laid, he said.

Leopard seals were becoming more common in New Zealand, but policing attacks was exceptionally hard because of the remote areas where they came ashore, so the department had to rely on information from the public, Mr Osborn said.

However, he said he hoped the heavy sentence imposed on McKenzie would make people have second thoughts about getting close to a seal.

Judge Phillips said McKenzie's behaviour was atrocious and not the first time he had attacked an animal, which was the reason for his jail term and not a fine.

In August last year McKenzie was sentenced to 250 hours' community work for cutting the ears and tail off a stolen domestic pig with his friend before setting it free in a forest where he hunted.

The pig was later found with its wounds infested with maggots and it had to be treated with penicillin when returned to its owners.

McKenzie justified his actions by saying the pig had a better chance of surviving being hunted by pig dogs because it had no ears, Judge Phillips said.

Meanwhile, McKenzie's lawyer John Fraser defended him by saying he did not use knives on the leopard seal and there was no extensive brutality.

However, Judge Phillips said the seal was clearly exhausted and had come ashore to rest and it was totally defenceless when the "barbaric and inhumane" attack took place.

McKenzie was caught out by the Department of Conservation after photos were put on Facebook of him and two friends attacking the protected seal on or about October 27 last year.

The seal suffered injuries to its jaw and one of its eyes during the 20-minute attack and during the film the men could be heard saying "its f***ed already" and "it's really f***ed now", he said.

DOC went looking for the seal but was unsure if it survived because they could not find it.

However, McKenzie was clearly the instigator of the attack and it was his previous conviction for animal cruelty that meant jail was the only option, Judge Phillips said.

"You have a very high risk of reoffending," he said.

McKenzie's friends Michael William Matthews, 23, and Phillip Ray Horrell, 24, were fined $7000 and $5000 on the same charge when they were sentenced last month.
Source: - Nov 13, 2010
Update posted on Nov 15, 2010 - 11:14AM 


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