Lawyer Seeks Action on Cruel Children as Kickers-to-Killers Evidence Mounts
Children who torment animals may be more likely to grow up to commit child abuse, violent assaults and even murder, according to a barrister who is calling for changes to the law.
Writing in the latest issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine (28 May 2002), barrister Noel Sweeney says new studies are expanding on research which proved a link between early cruelty to animals and serial killing on the scale of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and Boston strangler, Albert De Salvo.
The evidence is that, while it is extremely rare for the child who kicks a dog to become a mass murderer, such behaviour signals an alert to a self-perpetuating vicious circle, where childhood cruelty to animals, first, mirrors abuse witnessed within the family and, later, becomes a rehearsal for adult violence. Sweeney says: "We have begun to realise that cruelty to animals and to humans is a continuum based on the abuse of the powerless.
In the United States the connections are taken so seriously they are now part of FBI procedures, and Congress has just provided funding to prevent animal cruelty by juveniles, and to counsel young people who commit it.
Sweeney uses his BBC Wildlife Magazine column to argue for similar action in Britain, to avoid a further escalation in the already-high violence levels.
As a starting point, he wants vets to become legally required to report suspicious injuries to animals. He also says: "There must be more communication between the police, probation workers, doctors and social workers to identify children who abuse animals, because within such troubled minds, there lurks the capacity to kill.
Sweeney adds: "We now have the knowledge that the abuse of animals and children causes and creates a cycle of cruelty that feeds off itself. We need the will to change this, so that today's badger-baiter does not become tomorrow's baby-batterer or wife-beater, or worse. The blueprint for our future must be to protect animals, and guide children towards a chain of compassion. Both the problem and the solution are wholly within human hands."
Notes to Editors:
BBC Wildlife Magazine is Britain's best-selling nature monthly. Noel Sweeney's opinion piece is published in the June issue, on sale from 28 May, price £2.80p.
Noel Sweeney is a practising barrister specialising in criminal law, human rights and animal law. He is happy to give interviews.
Noel specialises in serious crime and has appeared as leading Counsel in numerous cases of murder, rape and other sexually related crime, the importation and supply of drugs, kidnapping and cases of serious fraud.
Noel's practice also includes a good deal of regulatory work and he regularly appears before the Administrative Court in such cases. He has extensive experience of cases involving the Proceeds of Crime & Money Laundering regulations.
Recently Noel has appeared as lead Counsel in the Bristol 'trebuchet - human catapult' case and as lead Counsel in the long running Bristol Crown Court 'Robinsons' legal aid fraud.
Noel also has expertise in the area of Animal Law. He has lectured, published articles and appeared on the BBC on this topic.
Noel has been invited by Police Forces to lecture them on tactics and strategy in relation to child abuse cases. In addition he has represented police officers in internal disciplinary proceedings and the Court of Appeal. These cases have resulted in reinstatement of the officers concerned.