Lakesland Hen Rescuers confirm intention to appeal to Court of Appeal

Notice of Intention to Appeal filed in NSW Court of Appeal - 5 Jan 2021


Today our lawyers filed a Notice of Intention to Appeal regarding the Supreme Court’s decision last month against the individuals who had attempted to rescue sick and dying farmed hens abandoned by authorities. We are proud to continue to represent the rescuers in their quest to improve the law with respect to animals. The application for leave to appeal is due early March.

Lakesland Hen Rescuers appeal dismissed

Lakesland Hen Rescuers Case – Decision of NSW Supreme Court - 9 Dec 2020


We are extremely disappointed to report that the test case to establish whether our law would allow a minor offence (eg trespass) to be committed if it is necessary to avoid a much greater harm to animals has been dismissed by a single judge in the Supreme Court.

Justice Adamson agreed with the prosecutor who argued there was no evidence to show that the evil inflicted on the hens was

‘irreparable’ or that the appellants were ‘bound to protect’ the chickens [at 26]. Our counsel, Peter Singleton, had argued that the defence of necessity could justify criminal conduct where the purpose of the criminal act was to protect property or a stranger who had no pre-existing relationship with the accused. And if it was available to protect property, the defence must extend to protecting animals such as these hens.

However, Justice Adamson agreed with the prosecutor largely due to previous cases decided in higher courts and which therefore she held were binding on her, even though none of the cases related to a claim for the defence of necessity for the protection of a stranger or property [at 46].

Justice Adamson also held that it must be shown that the accused person had no alternative to doing what he or she did to avoid the harm – ie that the criminal act was proportionate to the harm being inflicted. She agreed with the Local Court’s view that an alternative to the appellants’ rescue attempts was available, being the RSPCA [ADO Note: the RSPCA officers had concluded their inspection at the time of the rescue], and therefore their conduct was neither necessary nor proportionate [at 60].

Justice Adamson concluded by agreeing with the Magistrate in the Local Court that the defence of necessity ‘was plainly not available in the circumstances of the present case since, among other reasons, the purpose element was excluded given the nature of the harm and the plaintiffs’ lack of connection with the chickens’ [at 63].

The appellants are considering an appeal.

We extend infinite thanks to our learned counsel for his supreme generosity of time and expertise. We also thank the appellants for their courage and compassion.

Finally to the Lakesland Hens – you will not be forgotten.

For more on the Lakesland Hens, see NSW Hen Rescue:

The Supreme Court decision is available here:

Lakesland Hen Rescuers head to Supreme Court

Lakesland Hen Rescuers Case – Appeal in NSW Supreme Court - 7 Dec 2020


Today ADO lawyers are heading to the Supreme Court of NSW to appeal an important matter of law about the criminal law defence of ‘necessity’ and whether it can be used to prevent harm to animals. Last year a NSW Local Court said the law should NOT allow private land to be entered in order to help a dying hen, and heavily penalised 6 compassionate citizens who for doing so. The defence of ‘necessity’ is available when a small offence is committed in order to stop a much greater harm. Our law has recognised it to help persons in distress.

Can it be used for ANIMALS whom the law regards as property? Can animals be regarded as LEGAL PERSONS for the purposes of the defence of necessity? We are representing these brave citizens to bring these important animal law issues before the NSW Supreme Court. The matter is listed to be heard this morning by video link.

The Trial

25-29 March 2019, Days 1-5, Hearing

17-19 July 2019, Days 6-8, Hearing

20 September 2019, Day 9, Submissions

13 November 2019, Day 10, Verdict

The trial of the Lakesland Hen Rescuers

VERDICT! Lakesland Hen Rescuers Case – 13 Nov 2019, Day 10


Today in Liverpool Court the Magistrate found the Lakesland Hen Rescuers who had defended the charges against them guilty of aggravated trespass but not guilty of stealing (chickens). The defendants had argued their actions were necessary to avoid the unconscionable pain and suffering endured by the approximately 4,000 hens in that shed on that day in June last year, when authorities refused to take immediate action or provide veterinary care to assist the suffering and dying hens. The Court rejected that argument. In sentencing the Court did not record a conviction for those who had pleaded guilty early in the proceedings, instead handing them a 12-month good behaviour bond. Those who defended the charges were given a $1,500 fine, including on the grounds that their attempted rescue was vigilantism.


In all it is a terrible indictment of our animal protection system that those persons who risked life and limb to render immediate assistance to suffering animals should be charged with criminal offences including aggravated trespass and stealing. We need a properly funded enforcement body that is independent of both government and industry to ensure all sentient animals, including the millions of egg-layer hens in sheds and cages around this State, are properly protected by the law. The ADO is proud to have represented 8 of these brave persons throughout this case led by our extremely learned Counsel Peter Singleton, and we commend all the defendants for their compassion and concern for the wellbeing of all animals.

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