Guidance has been produced to help judges and magistrates ensure that sentences handed down to owners of dogs deemed to be dangerous are consistent across courts in England and Wales.
Sentencing guidance has been produced to help judges and magistrates ensure that sentences handed down to owners of dogs deemed to be dangerous are consistent across courts in England and Wales.
The sentencing guidelines are currently in draft form and subject to a public consultation. It is the first time sentencing guidelines have be produced for the judiciary in relation to those found guilty of offences related to dangerous dogs.
The guidelines were produced by the Sentencing Council for England and Wales, which was established to promote transparency and consistency in sentencing. The council is an independent, non-departmental public body, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson.
Although the proposed guidelines include aspects dealing with owners of banned breeds, the overall focus is on punishing owners of dogs of any breed if a threat to the public is posed.
The council’s guidelines suggest a range of penalties, from community orders to jail terms for owners of dogs that injure people when out of control. The guidelines also suggest fines for individuals convicted of possessing banned dogs, although prison is suggested as an option in extreme cases. Dogs deemed dangerous should be destroyed unless courts are satisfied that it will be kept under control in the future.
Explaining the need for the guidance, Sentencing Council member and district judge Anne Arnold said: “The majority of dog owners take good care of their pets and keep their dogs under control but we want to ensure that irresponsible dog owners who put the public at risk are sentenced appropriately. Our guideline gives guidance to courts on making the best use of their powers so that people can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims.”
In relation to the consultation, which closes on March 8 2012, she added: “This consultation provides an opportunity for anyone interested in this issue to give their views so we can make sure the guidelines are as effective as possible.”
During the consultation period the council will convene several meetings to gather views from criminal justice organisations and other stakeholders. After the consultation period has ended the guidelines will be revised before being published and subsequently used by all adult courts in England and Wales.
Trevor Cooper (pictured), solicitor and legal consultant to Dogs Trust said: “Courts often face the difficult task of deciding on appropriate sentencing in dog cases, which can be emotive and complex. These draft guidelines on dangerous dog offences will help to provide much needed clarity and consistency in assessing individual cases and this consultation will be considered with due diligence.”