5 years for animal cruelty!

Scott Neilson October 4, 2017

The government has announced plans to legislate to significantly increase sentencing powers under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Currently the maximum custodial sentence is six months’ imprisonment.  That could be raised to 5 years!

Offences covered by the Act

There are a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 including those, such as causing animals unnecessary suffering, which may be committed without actually intending to do so.   The Act adopts a wide definition of ‘animal’, to include any “vertebrate other than man.”

Current sentencing policy

In 2015 there were 933 people convicted of animal welfare offence under the act – 91 of whom were sent straight to prison, although the RSPCA say that one 3 of those received the maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.

Why do sentences need to be increased?

There are some horrific stories out there that colour the view of current sentencing policy.  Recent cases include a man who purchased a number of puppies for the sole purpose of killing them by beating, choking and stabbing.   The reforms are also supported on the basis that maximum sentences in England & Wales are noticeably shorter than elsewhere, including in Northern Ireland where the maximum sentence is already 5 years.   There is also an unhealthy comparison with other offences.   How can fly tipping carry a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison when those relating to animal cruelty are 1/10th of that.

We are here to help

New legislation is not expected until 2018.   However, obviously the existing law still means that nearly 1,000 people are year are being convicted of animal welfare offences.   Some of these will no doubt be deserving of punishment – but the fact that some of these offences are capable of being committed unintentionally does mean that there are people at risk of criminal conviction who should not be receiving a criminal conviction and we are here to help.   If you are facing an allegation it makes sense to instruct an expert.  For assistance with any aspect of animal welfare law contant Scott Neilson (neilsons@tuckerssolicitors.com) on 0845 200 3367

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