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Public Views Sought on UK Dangerous Dogs Laws

27 March 2015

UK - The Sentencing Council is now consulting on their new proposals for how courts should sentence people convicted of dangerous dogs offences.

The proposals follow changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, which came into force last year.

The changes made very substantial increases to the maximum sentences for these offences, extended the law to cover offences on private property and introduced a new offence to cover attacks on assistance dogs.

The most serious of these cases are those involving a fatality.

The law has increased maximum sentences for offences where someone is killed by a dangerous dog from two years to 14 years. Newly proposed sentencing ranges, which go up to this new maximum, can accommodate more effectively the variety of offenders who come before the courts.

At the top end, they could involve someone who has bred or trained a dog to be aggressive and uses the dog as a weapon or to intimidate people, whose dog carries out a fatal attack.

However, the guideline sentencing ranges also cover incidents where the dog owner was much less culpable. For example, this could include someone who has been a responsible dog owner and taken safety measures, but an unforeseen incident occurs where their dog escapes and attacks someone.

The law also introduced a new offence of a dog killing or injuring an assistance dog. The sentencing guidelines produced to cover this offence take into account both the harm to the assistance dog and the potential impact on the assisted person of being without their trained dog for any period of time.

In line with the extension of the law, the draft guidelines now cover incidents which happen on private property as well as in public spaces. This means they will apply to incidents such as when a postal worker on a delivery round is attacked by a dog in someone’s front garden.

Judge Julian Goose, member of the Sentencing Council, said: “Most dog owners are responsible, care for their pets properly and keep them under control but some irresponsible owners put others at risk of injury or death and we want to ensure that the courts have the guidance needed to help them sentence offenders appropriately.

“In drawing up our proposals, we have been very aware of the potentially devastating impact of these offences on victims. Long sentences are available for the most serious offences.

Sentencers are also encouraged to use their powers where appropriate to ban people from keeping dogs or to order them to pay compensation to victims."

The Sentencing Council has set up a public consultation, seeking the views of as many people as possible interested in the sentencing of dangerous dog offences.

Views are especially sought on how to assess the seriousness of offences, which factors should influence a sentence, the structure of the guidelines and the sentence ranges and levels.

The consultation is open to everyone, both criminal justice professionals and members of the public, and closes on 9 June 2015. 

The public consultation pages are available here.

ThePetSite News Desk

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