Introduction and Facts
A few weeks ago we reported on the case of the Stockton Squirrel (would be) Killer and gave an overview of the Animals Act 2006. On 27th February 2013, there was another animal story – the Chicken (kid)napper of Chelmsford – Anthony Campen.
The facts are that on 28th January Mr Campen, who may have been drinking, broke into a school and stole their pet chicken (named Olympia). The school children had been looking after her since she was a chick. Mr Campen took Olympia off to a party.
Mr Campen was caught not by great detective work, but because he posted pictures of himself on facebook posing with said chicken.
It seems that Mr Campen was originally charged with causing unnecessary suffering to the chicken, presumably contrary to s4 Animals Act 2006 (this post explains more). For reasons unknown (maybe because it could not be proved that the chicken was caused suffering, maybe she was enjoying the party?) the charge of animal cruelty was withdrawn and replaced with a charged of theft of the chicken.
Was the penalty right? It’s difficult to say, but it seems about right. This offence is outside of any sentencing guidelines and we don’t know anything about Mr Campen, whether he has any previous convictions for example. We are certainly not expecting an appeal however.
Mr Campen did not take his punishment particularly gracefully – his response on twitter was “”£235 for a f*cking chicken. Right, i’m off for a kfc!!“”
Questions that arise
Was the sentence correctly reported?
No. You can see that the total amount ordered to be paid as reported by the BBC is £20 shy of the £235 stated by Mr Campen. This may relate to the ‘Victim Surchage’ (we looked at that here). The Daily Mail didn’t spot the disparity either.
One of the reasons for this blog was that news outlets often do not report cases properly. The law is complex, but this of itself should have triggered alarm bells.
So what was the sentence? It’s of course possible that Mr Campen got his sums wrong, but the Victim Surcharge is compulsory – the Court had to order one to be paid and there is no mention of one.
The only exception being if there is a Compensation Order and the Defendant cannot afford to pay the surcharge, but again this does not tally with the amount stated by Mr Campen or the order for costs.
Looking at the table of amounts to be paid by way of Victim Surcharge, the only way there could have been a £20 surcharge, is if there was a fine of £200 of less, but even this doesn’t quite fit.
Until more details are obtained, there will be a slight question mark over the sentence.
Can you steal a chicken?
Yes. Under the definition of ‘property’ in s4(1) Theft Act 1968, “Wild creatures, tamed or untamed, shall be regarded as property; but a person cannot steal a wild creature not tamed nor ordinarily kept in captivity, or the carcase of any such creature, unless either it has been reduced into possession by or on behalf of another person and possession of it has not since been lost or abandoned, or another person is in course of reducing it into possession.”
For this reason, a chicken can be stolen.
Why isn’t this a burglary?
Well, it depends on whether the chicken was being housed in “a building or part of a building“. In practice, however, an offence such as this would be charged as a theft notwithstanding the fact that it could also be a burglary.
Can you kidnap a chicken?
Don’t be silly.