A MAN who thrashed a horse until it collapsed has walked free from court after pleading guilty to a string of animal cruelty charges.

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Two men appeared at Darlington Magistrates Court today (Monday, August 3) to be sentenced in relation to a disturbing incident captured on film and uploaded to Youtube.

The footage shows Bishop Auckland man Billy Wilson, 38, sitting in a trap and repeatedly flogging a horse called Marble until it falls to its knees in what prosecutors called “an act of wanton cruelty”.

WARNING: Footage contains scenes some viewers may find disturbing

During the incident, the clearly-distressed horse is constantly harried by a barking dog while Wilson’s co-accused, farmhand Mark Melvyn Walker, 33, is seen running back and forth in front of the horse and another unidentified man heckles from behind the camera.

The pair pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal but chair of the bench, Jill Richardson, said the incident did not indicate prolonged neglect and refused to issue a ban on keeping animals.

Sentencing the pair, Ms Richardson said: “That video was distressing and you know you didn’t do what you should have done to protect that horse.

“It was a poor decision but there is no evidence of long term, wilful neglect or cruelty to any of your animals.”

Wilson was also sentenced in relation to four other animal welfare charges.

He admitted causing unnecessary suffering to a lurcher dog by failing to have an infected wound checked; keeping ferrets in a dirty cage with a rabbit carcass and no water; keeping a lurcher in a cage covered in excrement and failing to ensure a West Highland Terrier who had injuries to his mouth was protected from suffering.

Robin Ford, mitigating, said the incident with Marble had been a regrettable one-off, inspired by the heckling of his brother behind the camera.

He said Wilson – who apologised for his actions – was responsible for more than 100 horses and other animals whose welfare was not at risk.

Mitigating in relation to the other matters, Simon Walker said the ferrets had belonged to Wilson’s son, the lurcher’s injury was being treated at home and that excrement was fresh and had not been cleaned due to the 7.30am timing of the raid.

Walker – of Ash Green, Bishop Auckland – was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work, a 12 month community order and fines totalling £400.

Wilson – of Green Lane, Bishop Auckland – was ordered to do 250 hours of unpaid work with a 12-month community order and given fines totalling £1,000.