Dangerous Dog Sentencing Guidelines
The Sentencing Council has recently published Dangerous Dog Sentencing Guidelines that come into force on 20 August 2012 that govern the sentencing of offenders convicted for dangerous dogs offences .
This is the first such guideline in relation to dangerous dog offences, which are legislated not only under the Dangerous dogs Act 1991. The council claims that the guidelines will provide a “consistent approach to sentencing” and will “mean more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will receive discharges”.
The guidelines prescribe that if an individual is convicted of allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control injuring someone, they should receive 18 months’ imprisonment. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 provides for a maximum of 2 years’ imprisonment and the guidelines will reserve this for the most serious cases. Injury or death to a guide dog will now be considered an aggravating factor that will potentially increase the sentence. Who is considered a ‘vulnerable’ victim has also had its range broadened to include the elderly, disabled and blind (who of course may have guide dogs) as well as children.
Possession of a dangerous dog, under the guidelines, will attract a maximum of 6 months’ imprisonment.
Government statistics show that 1,192 people were convicted for dangerous dog offences in 2010. This represents a 39% increase on the 2009 figures of 855.
With these new Dangerous Dog Sentencing Guidelines in place, Magistrates will be better equipped to more efficiently and consistently sentence offenders, disqualify them from owning dogs in the future, order compensation to the victim and order the destruction of the dog.