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  1. ITV Report

Student who fried hamster sentenced

James White Photo: Press Association

A student who fried a hamster in his flat in York has been ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work in the community.

James White, 21, admitted causing unnecessary suffering to the female Syrian hamster after a court accepted it could not be established whether the animal was alive when it went into the pan. District Judge Roy Anderson told White he was sentencing him on the basis the rodent died minutes before, when the defendant was handling it.

Selby Magistrates' Court heard White had drunk so much in his flat in York he was "on the point of madness" and could not remember what happened. District Judge Anderson said it was clear the hamster did not die of natural causes and there was a degree of mystery about the incident.

York University politics and international relations student White, of Popes Head Court, in the city, was due to go on trial on Thursday.

Two forensic veterinary pathologists attended court to give their expert opinion on how the hamster met its death. But the district judge indicated in preliminary discussions that White would be guilty of the offence even if the animal was dead before it was cooked.

After this, the defendant changed his plea to guilty on the basis that his rough handling of the animal killed it before he put it in the pan. The district judge stressed he was sentencing White on this basis.

It's accepted now that there was rough handling of that animal but that it couldn't be established that it was putting it in the frying pan and applying heat that caused its death. Had that sadistic conduct been established I would be dealing with you in a far more serious way than I am.

– District Judge Anderson

As well as the 120 hours of unpaid work, White was also banned from keeping animals for eight years and ordered to pay £1,000 towards the costs of the case.

The district judge was told the investigation and legal costs came to £3,356.

Earlier, Phil Brown, prosecuting, told the district judge that police were called to White's block of flats on February 2. An officer found him extremely drunk, Mr Brown said.

When the police went into the flat there was a "strong and pungent smell" and a "frying pan next to the hob with a hamster in it".