Great Pet Theft Debate chaos – did the dog eat the minister’s homework ?

 

After a very passionate debate (click here for Hansard) where every single MP spoke eloquently in favour of much stronger penalties for pet theft, the Government response was that the law did not need strengthening as the sentence was already appropriate.

But the minister consistently misquoted the current penalties for pet theft.

The punishments he was mistaken in thinking already existed were actually an improvement and partly what campaigners were asking for!

SAMPA’s legal advisor, Professor John Cooper QC tried to get a message to the minster during the debate to correct the error but was advised by officials it was too late.

In summing up the Government Minister George Eustace massively exaggerated the existing sentence guidelines for pet theft. He seemed convinced that the crime was already rated a category two offence which could result in up to 3.5 years in custody dependent on culpability.

https://parliamentlive.tv/Download/Index/9361d6d6-d300-4e72-a9b2-c9cc782cbfe4

Sadly, in reality, pet theft is only a category three or four offence – which most often results in a fine or community service. Making this an increasingly attractive crime as pointed out by very many MPs during the debate.

Pet Theft, it was agreed by all, was rising steeply. It was perceived by criminals as being a low risk high reward crime as there was no significant punishment.

Minister George Eustace in summing up said: “Our reading of the current guidance, which was issued in 2016, is that in applying that guidance, the theft of a pet should be considered as either a category two or a category three offence. The custodial sentence is two years for a category two offence and one year for a category three. My hon. Friend is right that, applying our interpretation of the most recent guidance, a seven-year maximum penalty is largely theoretical for pet theft unless there are other aggravating circumstances. But as a general rule, category two or three would seem to be an appropriate sentence.

“First, let us use this debate to be absolutely clear that the Government interpret the latest guidance from the Sentencing Council that the theft of a pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence.”

A FOI request to all police forces in May 2018 by Dr Daniel Allen underlines how badly advised the government minster was…

Only one police force had any record of pet theft resulting in a custodial sentence.

  • Two people were given 12 month community orders
  • One person received six months’ imprisonment

The figures also revealed that very few reported pet theft crimes ever resulted in a conviction.

A FOI request to all police forces in May 2018 by Dr Daniel Allen underlines how badly advised the government minster was…

Only one police force had any record of pet theft resulting in a custodial sentence.

  • Two people were given 12 month community orders
  • One person received six months’ imprisonment

The figures also revealed that very few reported pet theft crimes ever resulted in a conviction.

2,030 dog theft crimes were recorded by 17 police forces from 2015 to 2018

66 led to charges (3.25%).

96.75% of dog theft crimes from 2015 to 2018 ended without charge.

All the above was in SAMPA’s comprehensive briefing document, sent to all MPs ahead of the debate.

So campaigners are still left wondering if this apparent defeat was actually a famous victory as the Government minister promised that, “pet should generally be treated as a category two or three offence.”

The BBC think he said no to improved sentencing – so it’s not just us confused! https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-44686041?SThisFB

Re posted from…

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/great-pet-theft-debate-ruined-did-dog-eat-ministers-beverley-cuddy

 

 

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