Norfolk puppy farmer Zoe Rushmer hauled back before court but walks free again

Zoe Rushmer was spared jail for a second time at Norwich Crown Court. Credit: ITV News Anglia

A convicted fraudster who was spared prison for her role in running a "vile puppy farm" in Norfolk has been back in the dock today.

Zoe Rushmer avoided an immediate jail sentence on Tuesday but - after boasting of her freedom on Facebook - a judge hauled her back before Norwich Crown Court.

Today he told her to see it as a "wake-up call" before deciding not to change his sentence after all.

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Rushmer, 26, duped unsuspecting animal-lovers into believing that dogs bred at a cruel puppy farm were actually from a loving home.

She admitted, at Norwich Crown Court, conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, but the judge suspended her two-year prison sentence, telling her: "It is your children and only your children that have saved you from going to prison."

After Tuesday's sentencing hearing she left court and could be heard shouting "freedom".

Judge Andrew Shaw was then alerted to two posts on her Facebook account in a report from the Eastern Daily Press.

In one she wrote "freedom" on a brightly coloured background, and in another she posted a photo of herself puffing on a cigarette while wearing a balaclava that she had worn to court.

Zoe Rushmer's Facebook posts. Credit: Facebook

Rushmer, of no fixed address, sobbed as she was brought back to court onFriday (June 28).

But the judge told her, after hearing that the balaclava photo was posted ahead of her sentencing hearing: "I'm not going to further your sentence but you need to understand that I came very close to doing so."

Ian James, representing Rushmer, said the balaclava photo was "taken from the car on her arrival at the court and before any sentence had been passed".

He said she wore the balaclava as she "did not wish her face to be recognised".

He added that the "freedom" post was "simply to express her heartfelt relief" and "wasn't intended to be disrespectful".

The judge expressed concern about the balaclava photo, saying it "indicates someone who's hoping to get away with it".

He added that if Rushmer wished to obscure her face on arrival at court "the time-honoured way of doing that is to put a coat or a newspaper over one's head, not to wear something intimidating like a balaclava".

Norwich Crown Court earlier heard that Rushmer would meet buyers with her children, now aged between four and 10, and was the "legitimate face" of the criminal enterprise run by her brother and her partner.

Some of the "sickly and diseased" puppies that were sold died within days or cost their owners thousands of pounds in vet bills.

The judge repeated on Friday that the reason he spared Rushmer prison was due to her children.

He said he hoped the incident would be a "wake-up call" and said it was time for her to "start setting a better example to her children".