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James White, a University of York student, has been convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal after he drunkenly decided to fry his flatmate's hamster last year.
The Politics and International Relations student has been sentenced to 120 hours of community service, with a fine of £1000 in court costs. He has been banned from keeping animals for eight years.
Roy Anderson, district judge, told White he would have been punished more severely, but the prosecution could not prove it was the frying of the female Syrian hamster that caused its death.
He said, "What happened on that night is still shrouded in mystery.
"By virtue of your treatment of this small, unfortunate rodent you've destroyed your good character and acquired a criminal conviction."
A University spokesperson said, "We note the decision of the court. As this matter has not been raised formally as a disciplinary issue under University regulations, we propose to take no further action."
At the time of his arrest, White told police he could not remember what happened to the hamster. Later in court he changed to a guilty plea, after the judge said White would be convicted even if the animal were dead before he decided to fry it.
Experts were asked to find out the precise cause of the pet's death in post-mortem tests, but produced conflicting evidence as to whether the hamster was killed by frying.
Judge Anderson said, "Had that sadistic conduct been established I would be dealing with you in a far more serious way than I am."
The sentence was given on the basis that the rodent died while being handled by White, minutes before he put it in the pan.
The 21-year-old student was prosecuted by the RSPCA, with the court case running from February last year.