A former Australian polo captain has pleaded guilty to putting more than a dozen polo ponies — 16 of which died during the journey — at risk of suffocation and asphyxiation when put he put them on the Spirit of Tasmania in 2018.
- Andrew Williams pleaded guilty to using a transport method reasonably likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering and 16 counts of failing to ensure the horses were individually stalled
- He will be sentenced at a later date
- Spirit of Tasmania ferry operator TT-Line is also facing similar charges
Warning: details in this story may be distressing for some readers.
Andrew Williams was taking the ponies back to New South Wales following a polo event at Barnbougle in Tasmania’s north in January 2018.
When he arrived at Yarra Glen, Victoria, Mr Williams opened the trailer to find 16 dead ponies and two fighting for their lives.
It is unclear when the ponies died, but it happened somewhere between boarding the Spirit of Tasmania in Devonport and arriving in Yarra Glen, one hour north of Melbourne.
Four and a half years and multiple court cases later, there is a guilty plea.
In the Burnie Magistrates Court today, Mr Williams, who was driving the truck, has pleaded guilty to using a transport method reasonably likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering and 16 counts of failing to ensure the horses were individually stalled.
Court documents revealed Mr Williams had transported the horses in a trailer with ventilation vents that were of inadequate size, allocation and placement to allow hot air to escape.
He also used transport and a trailer that prevented him from adequately monitoring the horses and did not check on them for an hour after he disembarked the ferry.
He also put the horses at risk by loading in two per stall.
All of this exposed the ponies to the risk of acute heat stress and asphyxiation due to suffocation in a confined space.
Mr Williams will be sentenced at a later date, but this is not the only court case relating to the incident.
Ferry operator also facing charges
Spirit of Tasmania ferry operator TT-Line is also facing similar charges.
It has been charged with one count of using a method of management reasonably likely to result in unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering and 28 counts of failing to ensure that a horse was individually stalled.
TT-Line has maintained its plea of not guilty and the matter is set down for hearing next month.
None of the criminal charges against TT-Line or Mr Williams relate to the death of the ponies, but there is a civil case that centres on who is responsible.
Mr Williams launched the action against TT-Line and freight operator QUBE Ports in the Supreme Court of Victoria in 2018
He claimed they caused the ponies’ deaths, while the companies claimed he was responsible.
A trial is currently set down for March next year.