A DRUNKEN teen has dodged jail after admitting to killing 43 prized fish in Colchester’s Castle Park.

Jamie Watson had drunk 11 pints of Fosters when he jumped the gates into the locked Castle Park to drain and damage a temporary fish tank which was housing dozens of Koi Carp.

The fish were being kept in the tank late on November 2 while repairs to the Imola Garden Pond, in Upper Castle Park, were being carried out.


Watson drained the tank and badly damaged it before making off with one of the fish, which measured more than one-foot long.

He was then spotted by CCTV operators walking through Colchester town centre with the fish before leaving it on car bonnet.

Police were called to the scene but when they arrived, Watson - who was with another teenager not charged with any offence - fled, only to be arrested a short time later.

The unemployed 18-year-old admitted theft, causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and two counts of criminal damage when he appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court today.

Magistrates warned Watson - who has no fixed address but regularly stays with his grandmother in Highwoods, Colchester - the offences were so serious they could consider sending him to jail.

But instead they ordered him to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in 12 months and ordered him to pay a total of £1,820, including £1,650 in compensation to Colchester Council, which owned the fish and the damaged tank.

Denise Holland, prosecuting, said there had been “widespread outrage” in response to the fish deaths and added: “A lot of the fish are of an age and will be quite difficult to replace.”

She added: “He told police he felt a bit drunk.

"He left the pub and obtained some chips and decided to walk back to where he was staying but thought it was quicker to go through Castle Park.

“He said he didn’t know how he got to the fish but does remember having one in his arms but could not remember where it came from.”

Evelyn Hicks, mitigating, told the court Watson was “gutted” to have killed so many fish and had shown “great remorse”.

She added: “He does not go out to maliciously cause criminal damage or kill fish. It was an act of stupidity.

“He knows the fish are something he would enjoy himself and he knows the local community is outraged at his behaviour.”

Magistrates told Watson: “This was a reckless act and a cruel, stupid act.

“It does not diminish it in our eyes that you were intoxicated at the time - in fact exacerbates it.

“The fish suffocated because of a lack of oxygen and that would have been very unpleasant for them.

“People will consider this to be shameful.”

He was also banned from being in charge of an animal for one year.

Annie Feltham, Colchester councillor responsible for leisure, said she was “saddened and appalled” by the incident and hoped the sentence would bring “closure” to the town.

She also thanked council gardeners and rangers for their efforts to rescue the surviving fish.  

She added: “I would like to thank all of the residents and businesses who contacted the council with heartfelt offers to help restock the pond.”