Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Man sentenced over drinking fish

Video still of Paul Wooding preparing and drinking a cocktail containing alcohol and four live minnows (RSPCA)
Paul Wooding drank a cocktail of alcohol and four fish in a pub

A 33-year-old binman who drank four fish in a cocktail of alcohol has walked free from court after being charged with animal cruelty.

Paul Wooding, of Brampton Avenue, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, was today sentenced at Hereford Magistrates' Court, over two offences linked to the online Neknominate craze, in an incident in a pub which happened in February.

Wooding was handed an 18 month conditional discharge, concurrent, for causing unnecessary suffering to an animal, and also for failing to protect the fish, after being prosecuted by the RSPCA.

He admitted both charges in court earlier this month. In the video, Wooding announces "this is my Neknominate" before downing a pint glass of wine, gin, vodka, rum and lemonade - together with the fish.

Rafe Turner, prosecuting, said it was a professional vet's opinion "the fish have been caused pain, based on the video evidence".

The footage came to the RSPCA'S attention after it was seen on Wooding's Facebook page.

In it, after downing the cocktail, he nominates four other people to join the drinking game.

The Neknominate phenomenon is understood to have emerged in Australia, with Wooding's believed to be the fifth such case to come to court in connection with the craze.

After being interviewed about the video, Wooding later posted on Facebook: "Some people's lives must be that sad and boring, to get any excitement they have to report me to the RSPCA for my Neknominate," Mr Turner added.

Wooding told investigators he had been nominated to drink by friends and "something was going around to get some fish, to make it different".

Mr Turner said he told the RSPCA the fish were "little minnows" and he had got them out of his friend's fish tank an hour before carrying out the act.

Wooding said he had drunk about eight pints and six double gins, before downing the cocktail at the Golf Inn, in Ross.

Chris Morgan, in mitigation questioned why the prosecution had ever made it to court when cautions had been issued for "other similar matters".

He added: "Yes, those fish may have experienced pain and then died, but they are small fish, nothing more."

He said the offences should be looked at objectively, and that comparing the fishes' deaths, for example, to four horses would be "contrary to common sense".

Mr Morgan added his client was "stupid, irresponsible and ashamed" but had already suffered having been exposed to "public ridicule" and the press spotlight.

Wooding, he said, had no idea his drinking the fish was against the law.

"If it can ever be said of a crime, that a defendant has learned the error of his ways, it can be said here," said Mr Morgan.

Wooding was also ordered to pay £500 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

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