Maximum sentences must be tough and proportionate to discourage animal cruelty.

Maximum sentences must be tough and proportionate to discourage animal cruelty.

Maximum prison sentences for animal cruelty offences are now five years across all of the UK. While we believe that this will encourage tougher – and more proportionate – sentences to be given for serious animal cruelty offences, we are also aware that this only applies to a small proportion of equine welfare cases prosecuted in the UK.    

We are clear that in the UK the majority of equine cases that are prosecuted do not meet the requirements for a prison sentence. It is vital that sentencing guidelines are reviewed to improve consistency in the sentences handed out across England and Wales, and that in Scotland sentencing guidelines are introduced, and they reflect the crime committed. Furthermore, in England and Wales law clerks and magistrates must be given appropriate training to ensure they have the expertise to hand out appropriate sentences to those involved in equine welfare cases. 

Our view is that we must also have tough, enforceable bans to safeguard the welfare of equines, and other animals, and prevent repeat offenders. To be effective it is critical that enforcement agencies enforce them, and this can only be done through a joined-up approach. We believe this can best be achieved through a simple national animal offender register. 

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Act goes some way to achieving this in Scotland, as it requires a record of reasons to be established and maintained by the Courts and Tribunals Service, stating why they did or did not choose to impose a ban and this will hopefully encourage much needed consistency in the use of bans. In addition, the Scottish Government will be obliged to report within five years on the progress they have made on information sharing amongst enforcement authorities, which is a step in the right direction towards a joined-up approach.  

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