A cruel puppy-farmer who was spared jail because of her four children was hauled back into court after the judge was alerted to a Facebook post celebrating her lenient sentence.
Zoe Rushmer, 26, was part of a gang that earned £300,000 by duping unsuspecting animal-lovers into buying dogs bred at a negligent Norfolk puppy farm, believing they were actually from a loving home.
Despite admitting conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation at Norwich Crown Court on Tuesday, the judge suspended her two-year prison sentence, telling her: ‘It is your children and only your children that have saved you from going to prison.’
Zoe Rushmer, 26,
The criminal shared a photo of herself puffing on a cigarette while wearing a balaclava that she had worn to court. She captioned the image ‘wing it’
In another post she writes ‘Freedom’ on a brightly coloured background – which appears to show no remorse for her actions
However, shortly after the sentencing hearing judge Andrew Shaw was alerted to two posts on her Facebook account and ordered her back to court on Friday.
In the gloating posts she wrote ‘freedom’ and shared a photo of herself puffing on a cigarette while wearing a balaclava that she had worn to court.
She captioned the photo ‘wing it’ and included a fist bump emoji.
Zoe Rushmer (pictured at Norwich Crown Court) was given a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work
Norfolk puppy farmer Zoe Rushmer, poses as a puppy on social media
Rushmer, of no fixed address, sobbed as she was brought back to court on Friday.
But the judge told her, after hearing that the balaclava photo was posted ahead of her sentencing hearing: ‘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 the balaclava photo was ‘taken from the car on her arrival at the court and before any sentence had been passed’.
Michael Rushmer (left), 27, of Low Road, Thurlton, Norfolk, his sister Zoe Rushmer (right), 26, of no fixed address, and her partner Jacob Murphy, 27, of The Street, Norton Subcourse, all admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation between June 1, 2016 and June 18, 2018
He said she wore the balaclava as she ‘did not wish her face to be recognised’.
He added that the ‘freedom’ post was ‘simply to express her heartfelt relief’ and ‘wasn’t intended to be disrespectful’.
The judge expressed concern about the balaclava photo, saying it ‘indicates someone who’s hoping to get away with it’.
Norwich Crown Court heard the puppies were advertised for sale as being healthy, socialised and treated for worms and fleas
When police raided one of their premises in 2017 they found dogs in cages, some in ‘pitch-dark sheds with no access to light’ and others ‘in a caravan at temperatures of up to 30C’ (86F), prosecutor Hazel Stevens said
One buyer was told by the sellers that their puppy died ‘due to their negligence’ and were refused help with their £2,000 vet bill, Ms Stevens said
He added that if Rushmer wished to obscure her face on arrival at court ‘the time-honoured way of doing that is to put a coat or a newspaper over one’s head, not to wear something intimidating like a balaclava’.
Norwich Crown Court earlier heard that Rushmer would meet buyers with her children, now aged between four and 10, and was the ‘legitimate face’ of the criminal enterprise run by her brother and her partner.
Some of the ‘sickly and diseased’ puppies that were sold died within days or cost their owners thousands of pounds in vet bills.
The judge repeated on Friday that the reason he spared Rushmer prison was due to her children, adding: ‘This is a court of law…the decision I made was correct.’
Norma Rudd (pictured with Mollie-Mae the Yorkshire Terrier) bought her dog from a puppy farm in 2016. The puppy has had severe health problems
Judge Andrew Shaw said the fraud, which began ‘at least as early as 2015’, ‘strikes at the very heart of this nation’s love for its pets, dogs in particular’