It would seem that our 'Strife' reporter is sitting in Sittingbourne this morning with Tom Betts from Your Thanet and Richard Spillet from IOTG.
Readers may have forgotten that our Margate Mayor and former Mayoress are facing alleged animal cruelty charges brought by the RSPCA and that the hearing was moved at the accused's request, from Margate Magistrates on the grounds that Cllr Watt-Ruffell was too well known to our local magistrates.
Other than a report that shared difficulty seems to have brought the couple closer together; they sat hand in hand as proceedings opened, there has been further delay in hearing the case. It would seem that the normal criminal checks on the background of two RSPCA witnesses had not taken place and this was objected to by the defending solicitor. There was a degree of annoyance from the Magistrate, as one could imagine, as this could and should have been sorted out sooner and perhaps brought to the attention of the RSPCA. It would seem that the hearing was adjourned for an hour so that necessary witness checks (criminal records etc) could be carried out and fax machines are busy as I write. The Magistrate was not happy to adjourn proceedings to a later date.
UPDATE AT 12.32pm
Our Strife reporter has rung in to report that Cllr Watt-Ruffell has pleaded guilty to the charge brought against him. His wife pleaded not guilty but the RSPCA have withdrawn the charge and her case has been dismissed. The RSPCA has asked for costs of £5,600.
Cllr Watt-Ruffell's solicitor in his plea of mitigation on Cllr Watt-Ruffell's behalf, stated that Cllr Watt-Ruffell had been the subject of character assasination by 'blogs' and the local press which has made life very stressful and has made an impact on his marriage and they are presently having a trial separation. (There was no mention of Mrs Watt-Ruffell's indiscrete announcements on her since closed Facebook site.)
The Magistrates are presently adjourned to consider sentence and with Probationary Service reporting to them.
A medium Term Community Order of 80 hrs and disqualification from owning or having anything to do with animals for 18 months was the penalty imposed by Magistrates. £2,000 of the RSPCA's costs were awarded against Cllr Watt-Ruffell to be paid at £40 per month. Evidence included by the RSPCA was that they counted 150 fleas on the 5 week old kitten that died in the arms of the RSPCA officer when called in.
Further details can be seen at Your Thanet :
Well done to the RSPCA who persisted with this prosecution when it could have been justified on cost to have abandoned it.
Perhaps it would have been better had Cllr Watt-Ruffell resigned from his Mayoralty when he was first charged. I hope he will now do so. Is he the first Mayor of Margate to be in this position? I wonder what his position as a Cllr now is? I presume he will have to resign and that we can look forward to another interesting election campaign in Dane Valley Ward soon.?