Casino farmer’s ‘significant’ plan to steal cattle backfires
A CASINO farmer found guilty of stealing calves and cruelly cutting their ears lost his job from the local saleyards after his arrest, a court has heard.
Brian John Donaldson, 36, appeared before Casino Local Court on Friday after he'd been found guilty of stealing five calves from a Myrtle Creek property in May 2019.
Donaldson had also been found guilty of applying a brand, in this case attaching national identification tags to the cattle's ears, without stock owner's consent earlier this year.
When Magistrate Kathy Crittenden handed down her judgment in October, other charges against Donaldson were dismissed and withdrawn, including committing an act of aggravated cruelty against an animal, altering or destroying their earmarks, not possessing an accurate transported stock statement, dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception, and failing to comply with a requirement to notify the owner of livestock of the calves being impounded.
The court heard Donaldson had kept the five calves after finding them on his property and removed large parts of their ears to remove their identifying tags to attach his own electronic ear tags to the calves.
He then took them to the Casino Saleyards, where he worked, to pass off as his own but when speaking with a co-worker who raised questions about the cattle's ears, Donaldson admitted they were his neighbour's and the cattle was returned to their rightful owner.
Donaldson's solicitor, Peter Comerford, said his client had "suffered" since his arrest in June 2019 both financially and personally.
The court heard Donaldson's employment contract at the sale yard was terminated because "there was a fear of other workers or people attending the sale yards would assault him or attack him".
Mr Comerford also pointed out his client had no prior criminal history and, like many other farmers during the tough drought, had struggled to survive.
"He made spur of the moment decision to steal the cattle, and when detected at the sale yard (he admitted the calves weren't his)," Mr Comerford said.
But the police prosecutor said "significant planning" had gone into the stealing of the calves.
"The offence of stealing cows is prevalent in this community and is often hard to detect," she said.
"The steps he took to disguising the cattle … I say it took planning and it wasn't just off the cuff."
Ms Crittenden said despite evidence indicating Donaldson had returned the victim's cattle that had strayed onto his property in the past, he had committed both offences with the intent of deception.
She said Donaldson's actions seemed to be out of character for a man who is described as "kind and humble" by those who gave personal references for him.
"The life of a cattle farmer partially in recent years is a tough one," Ms Crittenden said.
"At the time of offending, the consequences of a longstanding drought would have to be taken into account ... the pressure they place on this offender and all similar cattle farmers in the area.
"But the offence of stealing cattle is an offence (that is) significant in a country area such as this.
"(The court must) send a message of general deterrence … (as cattle theft is) often difficult to detect and there is a rural crime squad who divert significant resources to these matters."
Donaldson was convicted and sentenced to conditional release order for 12 months for stealing the cattle.
Ms Crittenden ordered the other charge of applying a brand to the animal without the knowledge of the owner be dealt with under Section 10A and dismissed.