A teenager thought it was funny to remove a goldfish from its bowl and film herself cutting it up with a craft knife, a court heard.

Shauna Stephenson, 18, was already facing court action over two previous assaults, when she carried out the gratuitous attack in apparent “glee” as she recorded herself dismembering the defenceless goldfish at her former home in Murton.

Durham Crown Court heard that the first two offences were committed by Stephenson as a 17-year-old youth, but by the time of the goldfish slaying she was 18, and so can be identified publicly.

Stephenson appeared at court to be sentenced for all three incidents, after previous hearings were told of issues with accommodation and registering her with a permanent GP practice so her mental health issues could be addressed.

The Northern Echo: Durham Crown Court told that goldfish was sadistically killed to make 'funny' video

But at the latest hearing Judge Jo Kidd was told the defendant is now registered with a GP and is receiving mental health treatment in the community, while she has accommodation provided by a Youth Hostel in County Durham.

Outlining the case, Chris Morrison, prosecuting, told the court the first incident for which she is to answer dated from Stephenson’s 17th birthday, in June 2022.

The victim was stabbed in the arm with a butter knife by her, as she mistook his amusement at being shown a video by another resident at a home in Hartlepool, as laughter mocking her.

Mr Morrison said the victim required five or six stitches to treat the wound but has chosen to make no further statement.

In the second incident, on April 17 last year, when Stephenson was working at a care home, a group activity was organised at a trampoline park.

Mr Morrison said it was noted Stephenson grew more agitated as it went on and became aggressive to people taking part.

She pulled a plastic chain blocking a staff entry and placed it around the neck of a resident.

When the chain was taken from her, Stephenson placed both her hands tightly around the resident’s neck until she was struggling to breathe.

Stephenson then let go when she was pulled away and although she gave no reply upon being questioned about the first incident, she did admit the strangulation attack, conceding she was “angry”.

The Northern Echo:

Mr Morrison said the third incident took place on August 7 last year when Stephenson messaged a social worker to tell her she wanted to send her, “a funny video to brighten her day”.

She described stabbing and cutting up the goldfish which she appeared to have found amusing.

Mr Morrison said she had filmed the incident, telling anyone later viewing it: “This is how to kill a fish.”

She explained that it was going to die anyway as it was, “only a f***ing goldfish”.

Stephenson went to the kitchen and took out a craft knife, putting the phone to one side as she stabbed the fish and sliced through it, while saying: “F**ing die, you stupid c***”.

She added that she wanted the fish’s eye to come out as it would have been, “more funny”.

When she was arrested over that incident Stephenson also made no comment.

Mr Morrison told the court: “It was a sadistic attack on a totally defenceless creature, making repeated contact with a knife she was holding.

“Also, bear in mind the obvious glee with which she recorded the killing of this creature.”

Stephenson, formerly of Beech Avenue, Murton, admitted charges of wounding with intent, intentional strangulation and animal cruelty, arising from the three incidents.

Judge Kidd said bearing in mind the cruelty displayed in the killing of the goldfish she planned to prohibit Stephenson from having ownership of animals for five years.

Vic Laffey, representing Stephenson, said he could not oppose such an order.

Before he could further address the court, Judge Kidd told Mr Laffey she intended to make the defendant subject of a community order for two years, during which she must attend 50 rehabilitation sessions run by the Probation Service.

The judge, who has overseen the case through to the sentencing hearing, told Stephenson: “You are now 18 and that means you are an adult.

“Before these three offences you had not been in trouble before the courts.

“I have seen the letter you have written, and you seem to understand how much pain and difficulty you have caused.

“When I first saw your case, I was worried and thought: ‘What is Shauna going to do next?’

“What is encouraging is that since August 7 last year there has been no new offending.

“I know you are now seeing your doctor and you need to keep taking your medicine.

“You will have to go to see the Probation Service regularly.

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“This work is to protect the public from any further violence.

“I’m taking a chance with a two-year community order and 50-rehabilitation activity days, working to stop you offending in future and keeping you safe.”

But Judge Kidd added: “If you commit any new offences you will come back to this court and you will probably see me and a different course may be taken.”