Judge jails New Forest brothers Kristen Cooper and Todd Cooper for animal cruelty offences
Two brothers from the New Forest have been jailed for a string of sadistic animal cruelty offences which were said by a vet to be the worst case of abuse he had ever seen in his 24-year career.
Kristen Cooper (24) and Todd Cooper (29) were arrested after police seized a mobile phone containing videos of deer and hares being beaten, stabbed, and bitten by dogs.
Southampton Crown Court heard how the vet, who was asked to review the footage for the prosecution, had said: “These images will stay with me forever”.
Prosecutor Stuart Ellacott told the court Kristen, of Sandpit, Bransgore, had admitted seven counts of causing unnecessary suffering, while Todd, of Jubilee Court, Lymington, pleaded guilty to one.
The video footage, which was not shown to the court due to its “distressing” nature, was described by Mr Ellacott.
He said it showed animals bleeding and that it was “obvious” they were in pain and in need of veterinary attention.
During one depraved incident, a deer suffered a deep wound to its hind end, which he said was “possible genital mutilation” which was so severe it could not be determined if the animal was male or female.
Other videos showed deer being dragged by their antlers having appeared to have suffered spinal injuries from possibly being hit by a car, with one piece of footage showing a man raising a wooden object above a helpless deer’s head as if he was going to strike it.
They also held a hare by its head and encouraged a dog to bite it in another video.
While on bail for the offences the court heard the men were involved in an attack on a mother and son who were in their parked vehicle outside the Co-Op in Betsy Lane, Bransgore, on 4th March last year.
In a video shown to the court, the pair could be seen with a third unknown man ramming the victim’s car before getting out and attacking it with a catapult, crowbar and baseball bat.
Both men denied criminal damage, ABH and making threats to cause injury with offensive weapons, but were found guilty at trial.
A statement from one of the victims, which was read to the court, said she had been left “anxious, stressed and scared”.
She added: “I genuinely believed they wanted to kill us.”
Defending, Aleks Lloyd said Kristen – who has eight previous convictions – had used his time on remand constructively and was “extremely proud” of receiving a certificate for a maths qualification.
He added: “He has very much learnt his lesson – he doesn’t want to go back to custody.”
Kristen also admitted further offences which included handling stolen goods after he attempted to sell a trailer stolen from a farm in Dorset, and driving without a licence or insurance.
He also pleaded guilty to criminal damage following an incident in 2021 when a vehicle was driven deliberately at three cars – one of which was a police car – in Christchurch Road in Bournemouth.
Ruba Huleihel, defending Todd, who has 24 convictions, said he suffered with ADHD and had been exposed to violence from a very young age.
He was “disappointed” in his behaviour, she added, and he hoped to turn his life around for the sake of his children.
Judge Peter Henry handed Kristen a five year sentence and jailed Todd for three years and eight months.
Turning to the cruelty matters, he said: “One would have thought that both of you being brought up in the New Forest, you would have had more respect for such defenceless creatures.
“It was being filmed, other people were present and other people seemed to find it all very amusing.”
Kristen was banned from owning a dog for a decade and also handed a 10-year criminal behaviour order, which prevents him from being in possession of a catapult and being on agricultural or farmland between the hours of 12am and 6am.
Both men were given indefinite restraining orders banning them from contacting the victims of the ABH case.
Speaking after the court hearing, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, said the animal cruelty offences were “deplorable” and “sickening”.
He added: “I’d like to thank every officer and partner agency involved in this investigation.
“I hope this sends a clear message that Dorset Police takes all rural crime, including wildlife crime, seriously.”
Sgt Paul Buckland, of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, added: “It is abundantly clear that these two men believed they could terrorise New Forest residents with impunity, with a total disregard for any consequences.
“I must place on record my thanks to the victims in this case for their support, assistance and determination throughout the investigation and court process.
“I hope these sentences will help them to move on with their lives, safe in the knowledge that these men are locked away.”