Boys admit killing more than 20 animals in break-in

Two boys aged 11 and 12 have pleaded guilty to cruelty charges after more than 20 animals were killed during a burglary at an environmental college.

A break-in was reported at Capel Manor College in Gunnersbury Park, west London, on 25 February.

A barn owl called Shiraz escaped and was later recovered at a warehouse near Heathrow Airport.

At Uxbridge Magistrates' Youth Court, the boys also admitted causing criminal damage which amounted to £40,000.

Both pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to animals and a charge of causing criminal damage at Gunnersbury Park's Putt in the Park mini-golf course.

'Extreme animal cruelty'

The court heard the boys also stole various animals from the environmental college including ferrets, guinea pigs and three snakes.

Prosecutor Vijay Khuttan said CCTV footage, which was not shown in court, displayed "extreme animal cruelty", and although the boys were "of good character" the offences represented a "significant jump into criminality".

Mr Khuttan told the court: "They entered the areas they should not be in and can be seen throwing animals around, slamming them on the floor, stamping on them - and that ultimately leads to the death of over 20 of those animals and approximately £40,000 of damage to the cages."

He added he disputed the basis of the boys' guilty pleas, saying: "They are absolving themselves of practically any responsibility for the injuries and deaths of the animals."

Dafne Moran Toha, defending the 11-year-old boy, said his behaviour was due to his "lack of maturity" and "very young age".

Ms Toha said the boys "did not have any intention to hurt" the animals and her client was "very remorseful", adding that his actions were "completely out of character".

Fitzroy Lee, defending the 12-year-old boy, said his client was in "exactly the same situation".

Lead magistrate Dr Prabhjot Kaur Basra told the boys: "We've heard early guilty pleas, however, the basis of your guilty pleas are disputed and not agreed by the prosecution."

However, Dr Basra added that the court felt a hearing to discuss the basis of plea was not necessary because of the age of the boys, and the fact they were first-time offenders who "pleaded guilty on the first possible occasion".

The boys were released on bail and are expected to be sentenced at the same court on 4 April.