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Published on stuff.co.nz 16/07/2010


Teen sentenced for seal attack

Tourists tried to stop a teenager who shot a seal with a paintball gun and bashed it with a metal pole at the popular seal colony at Kaikoura, police say.

Hayden John Ingram, 17, argued with the tourists before running over a seal pup twice in his car.

Judge Stephen Erber said Ingram would be going straight to prison were it not for his clean record.

Ingram appeared in the Kaikoura District Court on Friday and pleaded guilty to killing a seal without authority, possessing a paintball gun and driving with sustained loss of traction near the Point Keen seal colony on June 18.

Judge Erber sentenced him to 200 hours’ community work for killing the seal and possessing the paintball gun, fined him $500, plus $250 reparation to the Kaikoura District Council, for sustained loss of traction and disqualified him from driving for six months.

“It’s extraordinary that you act in this way when a tourist tried to get you to stop,” Judge Erber said.

“This act of cruelty is thoroughly uncivilised behaviour. When a person acts in such a cruel and unthinking way, you could come to the conclusion that civilisation has just passed you by.”

Police prosecutor Sergeant Steve Frost said Ingram drove to Fyffe Quay about 8pm with friends and did burnouts on the grass verge.

He then drove to Point Keen and shot an adult seal with a paintball gun that he also tried loading with marbles.

Tourists tried to stop Ingram but he argued with them, drove away but returned and drove over a seal pup twice, Mr Frost said. “He said it was an accident that he ran over the baby seal and said he was distracted by a cellphone,” Mr Frost said.

Ingram left again, returned with a different group of friends and hit the adult seal several times with a steel pole.

Defence lawyer Laurie Murdoch said Ingram was of good character, had no criminal history and was from a good family who had been in Kaikoura for five generations.

She gave the judge references from Ingram’s employer and Kaikoura Mayor Kevin Heays, who had known the teenager for 10 years.

Ingram was not solely responsible for the attack and was not the first to hit the seal, Miss Murdoch said.

Ingram had $500 to donate to the Huttons Shearwater Charitable Trust and was willing to do volunteer work for the Department of Conservation, she said.

Judge Erber said it was up to Ingram if he wanted to give the trust money.

“I accept that people thought well of you before. They will not now.”

A youth has also been charged with cruelty to the seal and will be dealt with by the Youth Court.

The seal colony is a popular tourist attraction within walking distance of Kaikoura. The seals are close to the car park and are not fenced off.


The Marlborough Express