Examination of Witnesses

Part of Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:31 am on 23rd July 2019.

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Claire Horton:

We are aware of research by the University of Birmingham and similar research in Italy that found even a relatively small change in sentences can have a significant deterrent effect. Certainly, given some of the examples we have cited, the sentence at the moment is disproportionate, considering that the sentence for fly tipping is five years, the sentence for theft is seven years and the sentence for driving while disqualified is significantly more than this. For someone who knowingly and determinedly kills animals in the way you have heard about, there has to be a deterrent. There has to be a punishment that fits the crime. At the moment, it just does not at all.

Of course, as was said, there is significant public and cross-party support for this change. I think people recognise that we need to be seen to be taking this seriously and to be acting. Certainly, at the moment, we are the worst of 100 countries in the sentence we offer. Battersea did some research in 2017—I am sure most of you have already seen it, but I have brought some copies for the Committee’s benefit, which I will leave here—that looked at sentencing for animal cruelty in England and Wales. We surveyed 100 jurisdictions around the whole of Europe, the US and Australia, and all of them, including Ireland and Northern Ireland, had higher sentences than England. We really do need to act on this, and we need to do it soon.