Dangerous Dogs: Do Sentencing Powers Have More Bite?
Dog owners risk lengthier prison terms if their dogs attack and injure someone under new guidelines issued by the Sentencing Council [no previous guidelines exist under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991] which also provide a broader definition of âvulnerableâ victims to include the elderly, disabled and public sector workers as well as children. The guidelines, which come into effect on 20 August, will encourage the courts to use their full powers when dealing with offenders. Lucy Mair of GCN was interviewed for Lexis Nexis Current Awareness and explained how the guidelines may apply in practice and the impact on clients.
Extracts from the article as follows:
The definitive guidelines are much more onerous than the draft guidelines originally promulgated by the Sentencing Council back in December. While the draft suggested a starting point of a community order for a category 1 offence (where a dog is dangerously out of control and injures someone), the final guidelines place the starting point at six months custody. And while the top of the range for this category was proposed at twelve months custody in the draft, this has been raised to 18 months.
For many dog owners charged under the DDA their primary concern will be whether their dog will be destroyed or not. Where a dangerously out of control dog injures someone the court shall make a destruction order unless satisfied the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. The burden of proving that the dog does not present an on-going danger rests on the client and therefore they should be advised to seek an expert animal behaviourist report on the dog before sentencing.
Clients should also be alert to the fact a dog who has been seized and held in a police approved kennel may actually start to exhibit increased behavioural problems, thus making it more difficult to discharge the burden.
Another concern for clients will be whether they will be disqualified from dog ownership, particularly where they are already the owner of other dogs. This is a matter for the courtâs discretion and any evidence of responsible dog ownership may be beneficial in resisting the order.
> The full article can be found under Current Awareness on the Lexis Nexis network (subscription only) ref: LNB News 13/06/2012 85 "Dangerous Dogs: Do Sentencing Powers Have More Bite?". Click here to sign in if you have an account.