The tragic case of Jade Anderson made headlines in March 2013 when she was killed by five dogs when she was visiting a friend’s home.
The Government have now announced plans to make it a criminal offence to allow a dog to be “dangerously out of control” on private property. The Dangerous Dogs Amendment Bill is designed to tackle this difficult area.
The current law, under the Dangerous Dogs Act, applies only to public places, or where a dog trespasses onto private property, for example a neighbour’s garden.
The difficulty with a change in the law is that there is a fine line between allowing a dog to offer protection of their owner’s home, and ensuring that irresponsible owners who allow their dogs to attack others, are held to account. The risk is that an elderly person, who keeps a dog not only as a pet but also as a means of protecting themselves and their home from intruders, is prosecuted when that dog frightens off a burglar.
The Bill has been discussed at length in the press.
New proposals suggest that in the future owners of dogs who kill could face life imprisonment. There is currently a consultation on the proposals, which will run until September. The consultation seeks views on the maximum sentence for the offences.
The overview of the consultation states:
In considering that Bill, the House of Commons considered an amendment to the 1991 Act to increase the maximum sentence for an aggravated dog attack, which currently stands at a maximum of 2 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both. The amendment proposed to increase this maximum penalty to life imprisonment. (See the Parliamentary record of the discussion:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmpublic/antisocialbehaviour/130704/pm/130704s01.htm).
Whilst the amendment before the House was withdrawn, Government undertook to take soundings, before the next Parliamentary stage of the Bill, on a change to the maximum sentence for allowing an aggravated dog attack i.e. where a person or an assistance dog is injured or killed by a dog.
In responding to the debate on the amendment, the Government signalled that it considers life imprisonment for allowing an aggravated dog attack to be a severe sanction. In the circumstances it would appear disproportionate to the offence. As a comparison, the maximum sentence for causing death by careless driving is 5 years, and for causing death by dangerous driving, 14 years.
So it would appear that the prospect of the maximum sentence being raised to life imprisonment is somewhat slimmer than many tabloids and radio stations would lead you to believe.
Do take time to respond.