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17/05/2012 Tougher sentences for owners of fighting dogs

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Following the release of new guidelines by the Sentencing Council, people convicted of dangerous dog offences will be given tougher sentences. It is intended that the guidelines will ensure that the courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders and that there is a consistent approach to sentencing the owners of dangerous dogs. These new guidelines will be used in courts from August 20 2012. The top of the sentencing range for owners allowing their dog to be dangerously out of control and injuring someone has been set at 18 months’ custody

The Council have set an 18 months custody sentence for owners who allow their dogs to be dangerously out of control ‘in order to encourage the courts to use more severe sentences when it would be appropriate to do so’. If a dog is forced to set on a person with the intent that it should injure them, the owner will be charged with assault.

In situations where someone sets a dog deliberately on a person intending to injure them, the offender is likely to be charged with assault. Fewer offenders will receive discharges, more offenders will face jail sentences and many more will get community orders and fewer will receive discharges.

A member of the Council said "The guideline will also help courts make the best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims,”.

These guideline where the result of a lengthy public consultation with many parties including members of the public, judges and magistrates, the police, animal welfare organisations. The Council has broadened the definition of vulnerable victims so that it applies not only to children but also to others such as the elderly, disabled and blind or visually impaired people. The guidelines will be extended to include injuries to other animals.

Chairman of the Magistrates’ Association Sentencing Committee, said: "We welcome the new guidelines as the Sentencing Council has listened and responded to many of our members’ concerns about sentencing these cases involving dangerous dogs. "For the first time, magistrates will have all they need in one document to help them sentence the offender, disqualify him from future dog ownership if appropriate, order compensation to the victim and order destruction of the dog if necessary.”

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