UPDATE: Chilliwack cattle abuse sentences not long enough says Crown

Lawyers will appeal asking to triple original sentence to the offender caught doing the most abuse

Prison sentences for three young men caught on video abusing cows at a Chilliwack dairy farm were not long enough, according to the Crown.

Crown counsel Jim MacAulay announced in court on June 15 he will appeal the jail terms handed down to the first three of seven men charged.

Travis Keefer, Chris Vandyke and Jamie Visser pleaded guilty to multiple counts of animal cruelty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) act, and on May 18 were sentenced. Justice Gary Cohen handed Keefer seven days, and Vandyke and Visser 60 days to be served on weekends.

MacAulay told the court — amid a sentencing hearing for three other men, Brad Genereux, Lloyd Blackwell and Cody Larson – about the appeal. MacAulay said he will ask the appeals court to triple Vandyke’s sentence to six months, and he will ask for three to four months for both Visser and Keefer.

In a statement issued Friday, the BC Prosecution Service said after a review of Cohen’s ruling it is satisfied there were errors of law and the public interest requires an appeal.

“The alleged errors of law relate to what constituted mitigating and aggravating factors,” the statement said; “and whether it was correct to equate the duration of the unlawful acts with the moral blameworthiness of the offenders.”

In essence, the Crown alleges the sentencing judge put too much emphasis on how many seconds each instance of abuse case rather than the sheer number of instances.

The evidence of cattle abuse documented by animal right activists Mercy for Animals via undercover video at Chilliwack Cattle Sales (CCS) received international attention, and the case is unlike any a Canadian court has ever seen before. Seven young men in total were charged in connection with the case. The seventh, Jonathan Talbot, is next due in court June 27 to set a date for intended guilty plea and sentencing.

When told of the plan to appeal, Mercy for Animals Canada vice-president Krista Hiddema told The Progress she was pleased the Crown was appealing to ask for longer sentences.

“We truly believe that the punishment must fit the crime to continue to send a clear message to the factory farming industry that animal cruelty will not be tolerated in Canada,” Hiddema said via phone from Toronto.

The company, Chilliwack Cattle Sales, and one director were also charged in the high-profile case. They pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay $345,000 in fines in December.

During the sentencing hearing for Keefer, Vandyke and Visser back in May, as Crown counsel Jim MacAulay and defence lawyer Ken Sicotte presented case law, it became clear there was very little by way of precedent in Canadian legal history.

“The great majority of case law is not very helpful,” Cohen said in reading his reasons for sentencing. Crown asked the court for jail time for the three men, although MacAulay did not specify an amount of time.

Sicotte asked for a fine and blamed the company for hiring teenagers with no supervision, no company guidelines, who were left to work in a job with a culture of accepted violence.

The sentencing hearing for Genereux, Blackwell and Larson did not wrap up on June 15 but a continuation date has not been set.

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