Minister brands stab victim police dog Finn a ‘local hero’ as he unveils tougher sentencing guidelines for those who attack animals
- Credit: Archant
Government minister Brandon Lewis labelled police dog Finn a ‘local hero’ as he announced new measures which he says will ensure harsher punishments for those who attack police and service animals.
PD Finn was brutally stabbed and his handler PC Dave Wardell was also injured when chasing a suspect in Stevenage in October last year.
It sparked outrage among campaigners and caused demands for a change in the law so those accused of attacking police dogs could be charged with more than just criminal damage.
It led to a parliamentary debate at which the campaign was backed by Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland.
German shepherd Finn retired from front line action on March 31 and Mr Lewis, who is minister of state for policing, has now announced changes to guidelines for magistrates which he said would ensure those who attack service animals will indeed face tougher sentences.
He said: “You don’t need to be a dog lover like me to have been moved by their story. PC Wardell and PC Finn really are a credit to Hertfordshire Constabulary and the wider policing community.
“I am very pleased to say that following on from the debate and the conversations I have had, the Sentencing Council has now published new Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines on animal cruelty offences covered by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The new guidelines include, as a specific aggravating factor, attacks against an ‘animal being used in public service or as an assistance dog’.
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“This is important. It means that an attack on a police dog like PD Finn could lead to the perpetrators receiving more significant sentences under animal welfare legislation. I think this rightly reflects the vital work that these animals do.”
Mr Lewis said work is continuing to see if other protections for service animals can be found.
On April 4, guide dog owner Sean Dilley – who has backed the ‘Finn’s Law’ campaign – held a fundraising curry night for the Stevenage and District Fundraising Branch of Guide Dogs at the Raj Mahal in High Street, raising £1,200 for the charity. The guest speakers were PC Dave Wardell – accompanied by Finn – and ex-RAF pilot turned author/journalist John Nichol.