Examination of Witnesses

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:11 am on 23rd July 2019.

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Mike Schwarz:

Obviously I accept that the legislation can and should be passed, but with the health warning that it is creating a disparity. It is not an artificial, in-principle, lawyer’s type of disparity; it creates problems for judges to have a judge in the Crown court sentencing on one set of facts and in the magistrates court on another. If one looks at the guidelines, how is a judge going to sentence someone who has committed a very heinous act against a wildlife animal if his or her sentencing powers lead to the conclusion that the sentence should be lower than for a less heinous act in another area?

Defence lawyers, as you and others know, would have field day with that, saying that the principles of proportionality and fairness require examination. I heard that there was feedback from the judiciary about the existing law. One can only think about what the feedback might be, pending a formal review or report, or not, if this disparity were not only passed—and I am not saying it should not be—but passed without a commitment to reviewing and evening up the playing field.