09 February 2016
South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells has welcomed an increase in the number of custodial sentences handed down for animal cruelty offences.
In answer to an Assembly Question Mr Wells discovered there have been 15 custodial sentences in the last three years, with 10 of these handed down in 2014, the most recent year for which data was available.
Commenting on the figures the DUP MLA said, ‘In our policy document launched last year we made it clear that attitudinal change within society is key to tackling animal cruelty. I have no doubt that the public outcry against those who would abuse animals has played a role in the welcome increase in custodial sentences handed down for this crime.
We are also seeing legislative change in this area, and following an Assembly debate calling for a review of the Welfare of Animals Act by DARD and DOJ tabled by my colleague Peter Weir there has been an examination gaps in the implementation of the law.
That examination has delivered proposals which will increase the maximum penalties, with the maximum sentence in Crown Court cases for animal cruelty increasing from two to five years. In Magistrates Court cases involving unnecessary suffering or causing/attending an animal fight the maximum sentence will increase from six months to twelve months and the maximum fine will increase from £5,000 to £20,000.
We need to see consistent and proper sentencing from the courts on this issue to highlight the horrendous nature of the crimes and to reflect the public revulsion. I believe we are making real progress on the issue. We will continue to monitor the figures for prosecutions and sentencing over the coming months and years to assess the impact of the new legislative changes.”