01/03/2016

Tougher Sentences Announced For Animal Cruelty

People who are cruel to animals will now face much tougher sentences.

Agricultural Minister Michelle O'Neill and Justice Minister David Ford launched the Report of the Review of the Implementation of Animal Welfare Legislation in Belfast on Monday.

The report makes 68 recommendations aimed at enhancing communication between the enforcement bodies, improving processes and highlighting the Animal Welfare Service to the public. However, at its heart, it advocates tougher sentencing for the more serious offences and new powers for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to challenge sentences for undue leniency.

Minister O'Neill said: "I wanted to send a very clear message that we will not tolerate cruelty and that those individuals who neglected and abused animals would pay in court. This Review recommends an increase in the penalties available to the judiciary for the most serious animal welfare offences. Some offenders could now face up to five years behind bars for their actions. It is vital that no time is lost putting these measures in place."

Minister Ford said: "Crimes against vulnerable animals are abhorrent and will not be tolerated in our society. In the past five years we moved from maximum penalties of just three months imprisonment to the five year maximum recently agreed by the Assembly. This shows how seriously we view animal cruelty.

"I am pleased to have been able to include the necessary legislation in the Justice (No2) Bill. Alongside the changes my Department is making to the Unduly Lenient Sentences scheme I believe this will significantly improve our ability to effectively tackle animal cruelty."

(CD/LM)

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