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Microwaved Cat: Woman Jailed For Killing Pet
The family of a woman with mental health problems jailed for killing her pet cat in a microwave have reacted angrily to her sentence.
Laura Cunliffe, 23, admitted putting the kitten in the microwave as punishment for attacking her goldfish and was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison at Barnsley Magistrates' Court.
The court heard she had suffered from psychotic depression for many years and had been sectioned under mental health legislation 20 times.
As Cunliffe was taken away to start her sentence, a member of her family in the public gallery shouted: "She doesn't know what's happening. She hasn't a clue."
Another shouted: "This is a failure of medical services, Judge."
Her lawyer Alan Greaves told the court Cunliffe "just lost her temper", adding: "She still can't believe what she's done."
He said Cunliffe heard voices and believed things she saw on TV were real, adding she stopped taking her medication because "the Queen had told her not to".
Mr Greaves described the case as "shocking, disturbing and horrendous" and said his client was extremely sorry.
The court was told Cunliffe took her pet to her stepsister's house after the incident in September last year after wrapping it in a towel after attempting to cool the kitten down with water.
A relative said the animal was "proper screeching" before it died and a vet later said it would have suffered a painful death with terrible damage to its internal organs.
A few days later, Cunliffe confessed what she had done to nurses at the psychiatric ward of a local hospital.
But lawyers for the RSPCA, which brought the prosecution, claimed there was no evidence to suggest Cunliffe had had a psychotic episode when she committed the crime.
After the case, an RSPCA spokeswoman said: "This was such a sad case and clearly this poor kitten would have suffered terribly over a prolonged period of time."
Jailing Cunliffe, Judge John Foster said he had to impose a custodial sentence as a deterrent to others.
"This was an act of utterly horrendous cruelty on your part on an animal that, as far as I could see, had come to trust you and rely on you," he said.
Cunliffe, of Hoyland, Barnsley, admitted one charge of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal at a previous hearing.
She was banned from keeping animals for life and was told she cannot apply to have the ban reviewed for five years.
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