Published Thursday, 13 March 2014
The burned paws of the four-month-old kitten which died after being microwaved. (© RSPCA)
(The story contains images and descriptions that some readers may find distressing.)
The four-month-old black and white kitten, named Mowgli, was put in the microwave by 23-year-old Barnsley woman Laura Cunliffe.
The animal suffered horrific injuries, including badly burned paws. It was still alive when it was taken out of the oven, but its internal organs continued to cook because of the radiation.
The kitten took 90 minutes to die.
I have concluded, after careful thought, that the utterly barbaric nature of the act that you carried out in relation to this animal does demand a deterrent sentence.
District Judge John Foster
"This was an act of utterly horrendous cruelty on your part, on an animal that - as far as I could see - had come to trust you and rely on you," District Judge John Foster told Cunliffe on Thursday.
She appeared before Barnsley Magistrates' Court for sentencing, having previously pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.
Cunliffe had turned the microwave on for five minutes, but said she rescued the kitten after about a minute when she realised what she had done.
The judge told the court during sentencing that he had to jail the defendant as a deterrent, handing her a 14-week prison term.
Her family reacted strongly in the public gallery as Cunliffe was led away in handcuffs.
"She doesn't know what's happening - she hasn't a clue," one relative shouted.
Another added: "This is a failure of medical services, judge."
She still can't believe what she's done.
Alan Greaves, defence solicitor
The court had heard from Cunliffe's defence solicitor Alan Greaves that his client had longstanding mental health issues and that she had been sectioned 20 times under the Mental Health Act.
He added that she was extremely sorry for what she had done and, while she had known what she was doing at the time, she had lost her temper and acted "totally out of character".
Mr Greaves further told the court that Cunliffe had loved the kitten "more than anything else", carrying it with her everywhere under her coat.
He explained that her extensive mental health problems were a result of a psychotic form of depression and that she had stopped taking her medication prior to the incident.
As well as being jailed for 14 weeks, Cunliffe has been banned from keeping animals for life and cannot apply to have the ban reviewed for five years.
"This was such a sad case and clearly this poor kitten would have suffered terribly over a prolonged period of time," an RSPCA spokeswoman said.
"Sentencing is a matter for the courts, but we hope that this means that other animals will not have to suffer in this way in future."
© UTV News