Thank you to all those who have contacted me about the issue of sentencing for animal cruelty offences.
As you will know, under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 it is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to an animal with a maximum penalty of 6 months' imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.
This legislation was reviewed by the Parliamentary Select Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. At that time the Committee did not recommend increasing the maximum sentencing available to the courts but the previous cap on the fine charges of animal abuse has been removed, indeed, in 2015 the £20,000 maximum fine was lifted to allow a higher financial penalty to be charged. Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice is now looking at whether there is a case for increasing the penalties further.
It is important to note that the courts must decide what the penalty should be for each individual case, taking into account its circumstances and the guidelines laid down by the Sentencing Council. However, there has recently been a public consultation into sentencing guidelines for these crimes which I hope you took the time to contribute your views to. This consultation resulted in the Sentencing Council confirming the removal of the cap on the financial element of the penalty, and clarifying a range of relevant factors that would indicate a more serious offence.
Please be assured I will continue to monitor the progress of this as it develops.