NI: Report examines implementation of animal welfare legislation
Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford and Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill yesterday launched a report on the implementation of animal welfare legislation.
The final report of the Review of the Implementation of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011 makes 68 recommendations aimed at enhancing communication between enforcement bodies, improving processes and highlighting the Animal Welfare Service to the public.
It also advocates tougher sentencing for the more serious offences and new powers for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to challenge sentences for undue leniency.
Last week, Mr Ford announced an extension in the number of offences that can be referred to appeal for an unduly lenient sentence.
Mr Ford said: “Crimes against vulnerable animals are abhorrent and will not be tolerated in our society. In the past five years we moved from maximum penalties of just three months imprisonment to the five year maximum recently agreed by the Assembly. This shows how seriously we view animal cruelty.
“I am pleased to have been able to include the necessary legislation in the Justice (No. 2) Bill. Alongside the changes my Department is making to the Unduly Lenient Sentences scheme I believe this will significantly improve our ability to effectively tackle animal cruelty.”
Ms O’Neill added: “The Review also recommended that the most serious animal welfare offences be included in the Unduly Lenient Sentences (ULS) scheme.
“This will be enshrined in legislation within a few weeks and will allow the DPP to refer animal welfare cases to the Court of Appeal where the sentence handed down in cases heard by the Crown Court is considered to be unduly lenient.
“These changes mean we will have the toughest penalties for animal welfare offences anywhere on these islands. I firmly believe that they will be a real deterrent and show how seriously animal welfare is viewed. This is a clear message that we are tough on offenders to protect the welfare of animals.”