The Sentencing Council is consulting on revised sentencing guidelines (external link, opens in a new tab) for animal cruelty offences in England and Wales to reflect changes introduced by the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Act 2021 (external link, opens in a new tab).
The Council is seeking views on the draft guidelines from judges, magistrates, professionals across the criminal justice system and others with an interest in this area. The consultation runs from 10 May to 1 August 2022.
The draft guidelines include a new guideline for the most serious offences (external link, opens in a new tab), including causing unnecessary suffering, tail docking and animal fighting, after Parliament increased the maximum penalty for these offences from six months to five years’ custody.
Animal cruelty offences are now eligible to be tried in both magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court to reflect the new maximum penalty, and the proposed guideline for serious offences will apply in both courts. Sentences for the most serious offences would be expected to increase in line with the new legislation.
The existing guideline for the offence of a breach of duty of person responsible for animal to ensure welfare will also be updated to ensure the guideline is specific to the circumstances of offending likely to fall under section 9 of the Act. This guideline will continue to apply to magistrates’ courts only because the maximum penalty for this offence has not changed and remains within magistrates’ sentencing powers.