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Source : 24/05/2000 Northampton Chronicle and Echo

A homeless man was today behind bars after dousing a chicken in petrol and torching the bird while at a dinner at the Jesus Fellowship's Northampton headquarters.

Magistrates imposed the maximum sentence of six months after hearing how 20-year-old caused the 'utmost pain and suffering' to the chicken.

The man, of no fixed abode, had drunk a bottle of cider and several cans of beer when he had gone to New Creation Farm for the meal on April 20.

He then poured petrol over the bird and set light to it, claiming it was 'supposed to be a laugh'.

Farmer Paul Sklar, who lives at the Jesus Fellowship's base at Nether Heyford, had to kill the blazing bird with a shovel after he kicked it from the shed while it was still alive.

Mr Sklar has spotted the man entering the poultry sheds with a group of other people.

When he went to investigate, the farmer saw a fireball scorch through the chicken shed.

Jennifer Herrick, prosecuting, said : 'He was a bit drunk and poured petrol over the chicken.'

'He had drunk a bottle of cider and a few cans of beer during the day. The chicken jumped up onto his shoulder after being set alight.'

'The man claimed it was supposed to be a bit of a laugh.'

Mrs Herrick said the man had an 'unenviable record' of previous convictions.

Police arrested the man at New Creation Farm, and officers found another three dead chickens. The corpses of the birds were still warm, indicating they had only just been killed.

Magistrate Brian Gibbins gave the man the six month sentence under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 for setting the bird alight.

Mr Gibbins said: 'This was a deliberate act of cruelty to an animal, which could only have caused the utmost pain and suffering'

'As a bench we are appalled by your actions, and that you showed no remorse.'

The man also received a four-month jail term to run concurrently after a wooden bench in the chicken coop caught fire.

He was given a one-month sentence to run along side the other two for failing to surrender to custody at Towcester Magistrates' Court on April 28.

The man pleaded guilty to all three charges at a court appearance on May 2.