Having responded to an earlier public consultation, Mike Radford and three Honours students, Anna Connelly, Savannah Coull and Molly O'Donoghue attended a meeting of the Scottish Parliament's Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee at Holyrood earlier this week as part of the Committee's Stage 1 consideration of the Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill.
This followed a round table meeting held in Edinburgh last month which they attended along with representatives of the Law Society of Scotland, COSLA, the Scottish SPCA, the RSPB, and the UK Centre for Animal Law, to advise on technical aspects of the Bill.
The Bill increases the maximum penalties for the most serious animal cruelty and wildlife offences; introduces fixed penalty notices; increases the protection for service animals (“Finn’s Law”); and gives new powers to authorised persons to transfer without a court order ownership of an animal which it is alleged has been caused unnecessary suffering.
Giving oral evidence to the Committee, Mr Radford explained, "In relation to particular offences, where there are a large number of animals involved or unnecessary suffering has been caused for money or for pleasure, there has long been the argument that these are more serious offences and the current maximum is inappropriate."
Generally welcoming the government's plans, he added: "What this legislation does is it makes the system more flexible at both ends.
"It increases the maximum sentences for the most-serious offences, but at the other end the proposal to introduce fixed penalty notices would allow a sanction short of prosecution where there's a failure to comply with a care notice."
In addition to the Bill’s existing provisions, the evidence from the Law School’s representatives urged the Committee to consider extending its scope to include greater protection for assistance dogs and measures to make more effective the existing power of the courts to make disqualification orders where a person is convicted under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 of either causing unnecessary suffering to an animal or failing to meet its welfare needs.
The evidence will be taken into account by the Committee in preparing its Stage One Report which is due to be published in the middle of February, prior to being debated by MSPs.
The written evidence submitted by Anna, Savannah, Molly, and Mike can be accessed on the Scottish Parliament’s website here: https://yourviews.parliament.scot/ecclr/animal-welfare/consultation/view_respondent?uuId=885896604, and the oral evidence session can be viewed here: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/environment-climate-change-and-land-reform-committee-december-3-2019