A MAN who pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to three ponies after keeping them in "diabolical" conditions was sentenced to a jail term and banned from keeping animals for life.

Derek Thomas Monkton, 61, from Broad Street, Sidemoor, Bromsgrove, was sentenced at Redditch Magistrates Court yesterday.

Monkton had pleaded guilty on Tuesday, February 1, to charges of causing unnecessary suffering which resulted in one of three ponies in his care having to be put down.

He had allowed their hooves to overgrow and had kept them in "disgusting" and "diabolical" conditions according to RSPCA inspector Simon Dix who visited them in July 2003.

At the sentencing, defence solicitor Miss Nasra Butt said: "Putting a 61 year-old man in prison would not be appropriate as the risk of the defendant re-offending is very low and a community rehabilitation order would be more suitable to deal with the defendants animal care problem."

Miss Butt also said Monkton had to look after an elderly friend at the time and also highlighted his co-operation with RSPCA inspectors.

District Judge Ian Strongman, said: "The problem the ponies had is the equivalent of a human forefinger being pushed back against the joint and getting worse as it grows."

Monkton was sentenced to a concurrent seven-week custodial sentence and was banned from keeping domestic animals for the rest of his life.

"They were kept in a cramped, makeshift stable and left standing in their own faeces, which in one case was up to three feet deep.

"Imprisonment should be for the worst cases of neglect to animals, and this clearly is," said Judge Strongman.

After sentencing, the RSPCA chief inspector for Worcestershire, Lee Hopgood, said: "We are in total agreement with the judge, it is what we expected. We are pleased about the life ban on keeping animals, that was exactly what we were looking for."