Blue Cross welcomes stricter animal cruelty sentences and asks when will England and Wales follow suit?
Blue Cross today welcomes the strengthening of sentencing for animal cruelty crimes in Scotland to five years.
New sentencing guidelines also allow judges to hand down unlimited fines to the worst offenders.
Today is a momentous day for animal welfare in Scotland. Blue Cross is delighted that the landmark Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill has reached its final stage in the Scottish Parliament and will soon become law.
We would like to thank the Scottish Government, and MSPs of all parties, for supporting this important milestone for animal welfare in Scotland. Once enacted, Scotland will join Northern Ireland in having the longest sentence for the worst cases of animal cruelty and neglect in the UK.
We are pleased the Scottish Government has recognised the current sentencing system is too lenient for the most heinous cases of animal cruelty. We believe the new maximum of five years and/or an unlimited fine is far more proportional to the nature and severity of these vile crimes.
Half of UK nations are yet to strengthen sentencing for this abhorrent crime to the same extent as Scotland and Northern Ireland. Offenders convicted of animal abuse in England and Wales face only a maximum of six months in prison plus a fine, the lowest punishment in Europe for animal cruelty. Blue Cross believes harsher penalties will go towards preventing cruelty.
This now leaves England and Wales with the lightest sentences for animal cruelty in the UK. The Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill has been delayed on a number of occasions and was introduced as a Private Members’ Bill in this session. Sadly, the Second Reading of the Bill has also been delayed from June to October which makes it far more difficult for it to reach the statute book in this session. Tougher sentences for animal cruelty was a manifesto commitment by the Conservative Party and the Bill has cross-party support.
Blue Cross is today calling for the Government to stop dragging its feet and to keep its commitment and ensure this Bill becomes law as soon as possible so perpetrators of severe animal cruelty can receive the same sentence across the whole of the UK.