A huge sporting star arrived for sentencing today – but what was going on behind him is now making the headlines.
Soccer star Kurt Zouma was on Wednesday ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service after he admitted kicking and slapping his pet cat.
A judge at Thames Magistrates Court in east London also banned the 27-year-old France international from keeping cats for five years.
West Ham player Zouma triggered international outrage after a video of him emerged in February volleying the pet across his kitchen before throwing a pair of shoes at it.
He was seen slapping the Bengal cat’s head and saying: “I’ll swear I’ll kill it.” The clip, shared on Snapchat, featured laughing emojis.
It prompted West Ham to fine him £250,000 ($315,000, 294,000 euros). He lost a lucrative sponsorship deal and selection for France.
The Premier League player arrived at court surrounded by burly minders to face a scrum of waiting media and a person dressed up as a cat.
As he went inside, the lone demonstrator gave him a thumbs down. District judge Susan Holdham told Zouma and his younger brother Yoan, who filmed the incident, that their actions were “disgraceful and reprehensible”.
“You must be aware that others look up to you and many young people aspire to emulate you,” she said but accepted that both expressed “genuine remorse”.
Kurt Zouma pleaded guilty last month to two counts under the Animal Welfare Act of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal.
As well as the community penalty and ban on keeping cats, he was told to pay court costs of nearly £9,000.
Yoan Zouma, 24, admitted one count of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring his older brother to commit an offence.
He was sentenced to 140 hours of community service.
Yoan, a lower-league footballer, sent the video to a woman he was due to go on a date with but she called off the meeting after seeing the footage.
“I don’t think hitting a cat like that is OK — don’t bother coming today,” she told him.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which brought the prosecution, has called the brothers’ actions “shocking”.
“We hope this case will serve as a reminder that all animals deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion and respect, and that we will not tolerate cruelty by anybody,” said RSPCA chief inspectorate officer Dermot Murphy.
West Ham said after the case that it condemned “in the strongest terms any form of animal abuse or cruelty”.
“This type of behaviour is unacceptable and is not in line with the values of the football club,” it added in a statement.
“Within 48 hours of the footage emerging, we fined Kurt the maximum available to the club,” it said. The money had been donated to animal welfare groups