1 December 2021

Man used blowtorch on dog that was protecting its owner out of 'sheer vengeance'

| Albert McKnight
Clarke John Menzies

Clarke John Menzies, 46, leaves court after his sentencing on Tuesday. Photo: Albert McKnight.

A man burnt a dog with a blowtorch out of “sheer vengeance” after it bit him while trying to protect its owner from his attacks, a magistrate has said.

“In my view, that was an appalling act,” Special Magistrate Margaret Hunter said when sentencing 46-year-old Clarke John Menzies in the ACT Magistrates Court on Tuesday (30 November).

She said the dog had stopped biting him and had run to its mistress, who was “cowering” in the corner, when Menzies got the butane blowtorch and used it to singe the animal’s fur.

“Clearly, the dog would have been extremely scared, and in my view, [Menzies’] was a vengeful act rather than self-defence,” she said.

READ ALSO Man allegedly used blowtorch on dog when it tried to defend owner

Agreed court documents show Menzies was in south Canberra in February 2021 when he “turned nasty”, as Magistrate Hunter put it, and got into an argument with the woman.

He kicked through a sliding door, pulled a canvas print off a wall and used that to hit her in the face and body. He also attempted to hit her in the crotch with the print as the woman pleaded, “please stop, please stop”.

Menzies then got what is described as a “metal dividing gate” and used that to hit the woman’s hands and forearms as she held them up to defend herself.

The dog became “upset by the calamity”, Magistrate Hunter said, and bit Menzies on the leg.

He left as the dog retreated to be near its owner but then returned with a butane blowtorch, turned it on and pushed its flame into the pet’s face while yelling at both of his victims. The woman smelt her dog’s fur burning.

Menzies pleaded guilty to charges of assault, animal cruelty and damaging property.

His lawyer, Emma Bayliss from Boxall Legal, said he has spent 36 days in custody over the charges.

She said there was no evidence that the woman had received any injuries, and there was no ongoing injury to the dog, while it was reported there had been a “big pile of blood” after her client was bitten on the leg.

READ ALSO Court imposes a pet limit on woman who kept a menagerie in her one-bedroom unit

“It’s his own fault, really. If he hadn’t done what he did to [the victim], the dog wouldn’t have bitten him,” Magistrate Hunter said.

Ms Bayliss said her client had bipolar, that there was a link between his offending and mental health, and there had been a period when he was “quite unwell”.

Magistrate Hunter said there was no doubt he had a mental illness, but by the first part of this year, he hadn’t been taking his medications for about 12 months while he had been taking illegal drugs, although his lawyer had claimed he was now abstinent.

Menzies was sentenced to four months’ jail, partially suspended to account for the time he has already served. He had to sign a 12-month good behaviour order.

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