A farmer who killed his neighbour's cattle by hitting them with his car then striking them with a sledgehammer has faced court in Ballarat.
Graham Ralston appealed the severity of his sentence, which was imposed at the St Arnaud Magistrates' Court in August 2018.
He had pleaded guilty to aggravated cruelty to an animal and was sentenced to 16 months jail with a non-parole period of 10 months.
The 79-year-old was re-sentenced at the County Court at Ballarat on Monday to a two-year community corrections order and a $25,000 fine.
Crown prosecutor Andrew Grant said Ralston killed 12 cattle owned by his neighbour after he found them on his own property four times between December 22, 2017 and February 6, 2018.
The condition of the fences meant the cattle could cross the boundary to Ralston's property located in Corack, near Donald.
The court heard Ralston drove his ute with a bull bar into the cattle, then struck each of the cattle with a sledgehammer in the head each of the four times.
Mr Grant said police attended Ralston's property on February 9, 2018 after the owner discovered the dead cattle and made a report to police.
Police found the sledgehammer in the front of Ralston's ute and saw the dead cattle on his property.
What is worrying me is the circumstance of cruelty and the mode of disposing with the cattle... I am struggling to accept it.Judge Phillip Coish
The court heard Ralston told police he was 'sick' of the cattle being on his land and was 'tired' of nothing being done.
Ralston admitted he hit the cattle with his ute, they would fall over, he would get out and hit them with a sledgehammer and they would die in about three minutes.
He denied the cattle would have suffered after hitting them with the ute.
The court heard a victim impact statement from the owner of the cattle, who said Ralston's actions had 'changed his life forever' and caused 'irreversible' mental health impacts.
The victim said he was stressed, anxious and concerned for his family and well-being.
"If a grown man can (do that), what could he do to a person?," the statement said.
The killings also had a significant financial impact on the victim, losing $20,000 worth of cattle, plus the costs related to extra trips to the property to check on the cattle and medical treatment.
The court heard Ralston was previously convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals in 2017 for failing to properly feed and care for his sheep, and was fined $15,000.
Defence barrister Michael Turner submitted a community corrections order was an appropriate sentence as a psychologists report provided to the court showed Ralston was experiencing a 'major depressive disorder' at the time of the offence.
He also said jail was not appropriate due to Ralston's age, his domestic circumstances in which his wife suffers dementia, and the long-standing dispute with his neighbour.
"The report indicates he would benefit from seeing a psychologist," Mr Turner said.
Mr Turner said Ralston did not have guns at his property and considered his actions a 'humane' way of dealing with the cattle at the time.
"It was not because he enjoyed slaughtering cattle. He saw a problem and slaughtering the cattle as a solution to the problem, although it may be the wrong one," he said.
Judge Phillip Coish said Ralston's actions were 'disturbing at a number of levels'.
"What is worrying me is the circumstance of cruelty and the mode of disposing with the cattle... I am struggling to accept it," he said.
"The neighbour is concerned about his welfare and the welfare of his family.. It is the use of the animal to send the message to the owner, that is what troubles me.
"The other thing that makes this particularly troubling is the offending occurs only five months after a $15,000 fine to aggravated cruelty to animals."
A community corrections report indicated Ralston was of low risk of re-offending.
In his sentencing remarks, Judge Coish said the gravity of the offending was high.
"I do have concern you may not appreciate how serious this type of offending is viewed by the court," he said.
Ralston was successful in his appeal and was sentenced to a two-year community corrections order with conditions he undergo supervision, treatment, rehabilitation and visit his GP to obtain a mental health care plan.
He was fined $25,000 and banned from owning cattle or sheep for five years.
The maximum penalty for aggravated cruelty to animals is two years imprisonment.
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