Norfolk

Puppy farmer Zoe Rushmer back in court over Facebook posts

Zoe Rushmer Image copyright Zoe Rushmer
Image caption Zoe Rushmer was only saved from going to prison by the judge's consideration of her children

A puppy farmer spared jail because of her children has been summoned to court after posting images on Facebook celebrating her lenient sentence.

Zoe Rushmer, 26, of no fixed address, was part of a gang that made £300,000 from selling ill or dying dogs.

She was ordered back to Norwich Crown Court, where on Tuesday she had received a two-year suspended sentence for four animal cruelty offences.

The court was told the posts were to show "her relief" at not being jailed.

On Tuesday Rushmer admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and was told by Judge Andrew Shaw: "It is your children and only your children that have saved you from going to prison."

Her partner Jacob Murphy and her brother Michael Rushmer were each jailed for 42 months, and all three were banned from keeping animals for life.

After that hearing, the judge was alerted to two Facebook posts showing Rushmer celebrating her "freedom".

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Zoe Rushmer posted this image on Facebook after a judge chose not to jail her
Image copyright Facebook
Image caption The court heard the picture of Rushmer wearing a balaclava was taken before she arrived at court for sentencing

One showed her wearing a balaclava and smoking a cigarette, and was captioned "wing it" with a fist-bump emoji.

In another she posted the word "Freedom!!!".

On Friday Rushmer was brought before the judge, who told her: "I'm not going to further your sentence but you need to understand that I came very close to doing so."

Ian James, representing Rushmer, said she had worn the balaclava to avoid being recognised and that the picture had been taken before she arrived at court for sentencing.

He added the "freedom" post was to express her "heartfelt relief" and "wasn't intended to be disrespectful".

Image copyright RSPCA
Image caption Dogs were kept in cages and in dark sheds, the RSPCA said

The court had previously heard 74 animals were rescued from the farm in Thurlton, Norfolk.

The RSPCA, which brought the case, said some of them had been kept in cages, dark sheds and a caravan where temperatures reached 30C (86F).

Rushmer would meet buyers with her children and was the "legitimate face" of the gang run by her brother and her partner, the court heard.

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