WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES
A court has heard a Goulburn man was “trying to make new friends” when he sat in the passenger seat as a colleague killed kangaroos with a ute on the NSW South Coast in 2019.
Ashley Sorenson, 33, pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty including torture, and was jailed for 20 months on Friday after he encouraged co-accused Nathan Sanger to mow down 21 eastern grey kangaroos in September 2019.
The former asbestos removalist was the owner of the ACT-plated ute used in the attack, which caused widespread community anger.
Handing down the sentence at Queanbeyan Local Court, Magistrate Roger Clisdell said Sorenson acted “cold-bloodedly”, and jailed the father of four with a non-parole period of 12 months.
“It seemed once the blood lust started it was difficult to stop,” Magistrate Clisdell said.
“The occupants of the vehicle showed little or no concern for the animals that were tortured and killed.”
The court heard Sorenson encouraged 20-year-old Sanger to run down the kangaroos at Tura Beach, at times grabbing the steering wheel to veer into the animals.
He later sent a text message to Sangar asking: “What’s the grand total?”
Lawyer says Sorenson ‘was trying to make new friends’
Police were forced to euthanise several kangaroos the morning after the attack, which killed two newborn joeys and left dead and dying kangaroos strewn throughout the town.
The court heard multiple letters had been received by the registrar from members of the community, still furious over the incident.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Bernard Goonan told the court the crimes “made one sick to read” and were among the most serious acts of animal cruelty he had ever seen.
“They are the most egregious acts … above barbarity,” he said.
“Sorenson engaged in this conduct for the delight to cause pain to these otherwise tame animals.”
Sorenson’s lawyer Megan North argued the father of four was remorseful and had been drinking the night of the rampage.
“He moved to the South Coast to start afresh,” Ms North said.
“He has four children and wanted to give them a better life and escape anti-social behaviour.
“He met the co-accused at work and was trying to make new friends. He understands how serious this offence is.”
Sorenson’s ‘moral culpability is high’: magistrate
Sorenson initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, but CCTV footage placed him in the passenger seat on the night of the attack.
Magistrate Clisdell said Sorenson had a high level of moral culpability, despite not driving the vehicle.
“He wasn’t the driver and wasn’t responsible for as many deaths,” he said.
“However, his moral culpability is high.
“It should not have been him that instituted this behaviour that led to an immature person continuing on this rampage.”
His co-accused Sanger was convicted over the killing in 2019 and sentenced to two years’ jail, to be served in the community.
He was also ordered to complete 500 hours volunteering at a wildlife shelter.
Magistrate Doug Dick told Sanger as he handed down his sentence: “What you’ve done may in time be forgiven, but it will never be forgotten”.