One of the country’s main animal charities has launched a campaign calling for tougher sentences for those found guilty of animal cruelty offences.
Scottish Penalties amongst the Lowest
The call from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home follows the publication of new research showing that the maximum prison sentence available in Scotland of twelve months is one of the lowest in Europe. Only a few other nations, including England and Wales, have lower sentences, in sharp contrast to Ireland and Northern Ireland, where the maximum sentence is five years.
The charity highlights that under current laws, offenders in Scotland could get more for dumping litter than they would for torturing or killing an animal. It is therefore calling for the maximum sentence to be increased to five years.
MSPs Urged to Support the Change
According to Battersea, there are signs that momentum is growing in Scotland in support of such tougher sentences. It hopes more and more people in Scotland will get behind its call to persuade MSPs in all Scottish political parties to back a change in the law.
“Scots like to see justice be done and play a part in righting some of society’s wrongs,” commented Battersea Director, Dee McIntosh. “And Battersea believes this can only help to build the momentum to get the law changed in Scotland to five years for animal cruelty. We now need all of Scotland’s politicians to make this change.”
“I am very much in favour of exploring opportunities to increase the sentencing for those charged with crimes of cruelty to animals,” added MSP Rona Mackay, one of the politicians supporting the call for tougher animal cruelty sentences. “We need to send out a strong message that these vile crimes against defenceless animals are unacceptable, and we need to put it into perspective of all types of violent crime.”
Links to Other Offences
Battersea has also been campaigning for increased sentencing for animal cruelty offences south of the border, and is not the only organisation to be doing so.
The Centre for Crime Prevention recently published a report highlighting that the majority of people found guilty of cruelty to animals had already received convictions for other offences. They were also highly likely to go on and commit other crimes, including rape, theft and murder.
Despite the serious nature of animal cruelty offences and the apparently strong links to other crimes, the report shows that it is rare for serious penalties to be applied, with 92% of those convicted avoiding a custodial sentence. Around 24% of convictions only result in a fine, and the size of these fines has fallen from an average of £479 in 2005 to £296 in 2016.
“The Government is currently exploring tougher sentences for animal cruelty. This is absolutely necessary,” said Peter Cuthbertson, Director of the Centre for Crime Prevention. “We need more serious, prolific criminals in prison. This would protect people and animals alike, because it’s so often the same criminals who are a threat to both people and animals.”
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, including animal cruelty, then contact our specialist criminal defence lawyers today.