A FORMER North-West dairy farmer has been given jail time after copping one of the toughest sentences for animal cruelty in Australia.
Roderic Neil Mitchell, formerly of Redpa, was sentenced to a maximum of 15 months prison yesterday after being found guilty of nearly 190 charges in July.
Launceston Magistrate Reg Marron ordered he serve nine months non-parole but bailed Mitchell pending a Supreme Court review of his guilty verdict, scheduled for next year.
An ``over-confident'' and inexperienced Mitchell arrived in Tasmania to make money from the state's burgeoning dairy industry, the court heard.
But the venture became a nightmare with Mitchell ``grossly underestimating'' what it took to run a farm, unable to manage his dairy herds.
At one point his cows were dying at a rate of one per day compared to the industry average of two to five a year.
``[This is] the worst case to come before the court that I'm aware of,'' Mr Marron said.
``The community would be justifiably outraged by this appalling situation.''
Mr Marron said attempts by authorities to intervene were seen as ``interference'' as Mitchell developed a ``persecution and vilification'' complex.
The 32-year-old offended right up until the animals were seized, he said.
``He minimised his role and sought to shift responsibility to others,'' Mr Marron said.
``The inescapable conclusion is Mr Mitchell was aware [the herds] were struggling, suffering or dying.''
Mr Marron said Mitchell never accepted responsibility and showed no remorse.
Even after being notified of the animals' poor condition he continued to import more cattle, he said.
Images and other evidence tendered to the court ``revealed animals in a grossly emaciated state.''
The offences occurred between July and October 2007 with one matter in 2009 and included intimidating a public officer, obstructing police and failing to dispose of carcass properly.
Elements of the case have been ongoing for six years and in 2011 Mitchell referred the case to the Supreme Court on the interpretation of the Animal Welfare Act.
Yesterday the court heard Mitchell had prior convictions including intimidating a public officer.
In sentencing, Mr Marron took into account Mitchell's exit from the dairy industry and ``public condemnation'' due the nature of the charges.
Suzanne Cass, from STOP Tasmanian Animal Cruelty, said the sentence would send a strong message to the livestock industry.
``I think the sentencing was a pleasant surprise,'' she said.
Mitchell was ordered to pay $111,000 in costs and was banned from having custody of livestock for 10 years. He is due to appear in the Launceston Supreme Court on October 14.