The Sentencing Council has published new guidelines for how Magistrates and Crown Court Judges should sentence people convicted of dangerous dog act offences. The announcement is confirmation that another objective of the Union’s “Bite-Back” Campaign has been fully achieved.
The announcement in effect means that dog owners who allow their dogs to bite Postal and Telecom workers and others and are subsequently convicted of dangerous dogs offences will face harsher punishments under new sentencing guidelines in England and Wales which will come into force from July 2016.
The 2014 amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act achieved some important changes. The law was extended to include attacks on private property, in situations where for example a postal worker is attacked on their round in someone’s front garden or a BT member is bitten whilst working on customer premises. It also raised the maximum jail sentence for a fatal dog attack from two years to 14 years and for injury dog attacks from two years to five years, as well as bringing in unlimited fines, compensation orders and dog ownership bans. Additionally, those who are already disqualified from owning a dog but caught with another dog in their possession will also face much tougher penalties.
The new court guidelines cover offences where a dog injures or kills a person, where it injures an assistance dog or where someone possesses a banned breed of dog.
The new guidelines aim to provide clear guidance to those issuing sentences, taking into account the changes to the law and ensuring a consistent approach to sentencing for these offences.
The CWU can be proud of the fact that our concerted “Bite-Back” Campaign ultimately achieved significant changes contained in the new, strengthened Dangerous Dogs Laws across the UK, along with tougher sentences which were introduced in May 2014 in England and Wales and before that law changes were achieved in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The CWU sadly represents the largest group and number of dog attack victims in the UK with around 4000 members, Postal and Telecom workers, attacked every year. The impact on the victims and severity of injuries in many cases of dog attacks can be severe, traumatising and disabling for life. The sheer range of seriousness in dangerous dog cases is very considerable, so we welcome the fact that the new Sentencing Guidelines to Magistrates and Crown Court Judges now better reflects that and we hope it will ensure more consistency and penalties that fit the crime handed down by the courts who we hope will do their job more effectively in administering justice fairly for victims.