Judges are not renowned for their sympathy in sentencing criminals. But a deputy High Court judge departed from that image yesterday by taking pity on a man convicted of cruelty to animals. Mr Justice Peter Line halved the punishment handed to Shu Ngai-fung, noting that the 23-year-old truck driver adored his pets even though he did not have the resources or time to look after them. '[Shu's] sentences are quite heavy,' Mr Justice Line said in the Court of First Instance. 'He loves the animals - he's just inadequate to care for them. It seems to me that inadequacy is less morally reprehensible than cruelty.' The magistrate who sentenced Shu to 100 hours of community service and a HK$12,000 fine earlier this year did not make any legal error - he just took a harsher view of the case, Mr Justice Line said. 'No one should think that because of my sentence [reduction] ... these courts will be anything other than rigorous when it comes to cruelty against animals. But I regard this as an unusual case.' The judge's new punishment following Shu's appeal was 50 hours community service and a HK$7,000 fine. The court heard that Shu left three dogs alone in a cage on his apartment building roof because he wanted them to be warm and safe while he was at work. He also put them in the cage to keep them away from a cleaning chemical that had been sprayed on the roof, fearing it would sicken them. Shu's brother forgot to give the dogs water as he had asked, the court heard. Someone saw the animals and called the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which resulted in the criminal charges. Four dogs and three cats were removed from Shu's care. The pet lover said he did not have licences for two of the dogs because he took them in for a friend and also an elderly neighbour who broke his leg. The sympathetic judge said he saw no reason the SPCA should deny Shu the chance to hold a funeral for one of the dogs, which has since died.