'Punishments for police dog attacks are sufficient but we will look at how they are applied' - Minister for policing speaks at debate on Finn's Law petition
PUBLISHED: 18:40 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 08:49 15 November 2016
The government has said existing punishments for attacks on police dogs and other animals are sufficient, but has pledged to investigate the way they are applied.
Policing Minister Brandon Lewis made the comments during a House of Commons debate on a petition demanding a change in status for police dogs and horses, launched after the stabbing of police dog Finn in Stevenage on October 5.
At the moment those who injure police dogs can only be charged under the Animal Welfare Act or Criminal Damage Act. In theory the maximum punishment can be 10 years in jail and a £5,000 fine, but in reality prosecutions are very difficult to bring and punishments rarely exceed a few months in jail.
Leading the debate, David MacKintosh – MP for Northampton South – demanded the government consider whether punishments are adequate.
He said: “It’s not unusual that police animals are injured, killed or have to be put down because of injuries sustained as a result of their duties.
“It hits at the very heart of our sense of compassion for animals.
“I do think the law needs to be looked at and examined and possibly new laws introduced.”
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland – who has backed the campaign throughout – said out of a survey of police dog handlers, only eight per cent reported that offences against their police dogs led to prosecutions.
He said they shouldn’t be ‘treated like a chair or a table’ but recognised they could not also be treated as people. He said the solution needed to be ‘somewhere in between’.
Mr Lewis said he would work with the Department for the Environment and the Ministry of Justice to consider whether any legislative changes were necessary, but ruled out a request to bring legal change into the Police and Crime bill which is currently going through the House of Lords.
Mr Lewis said the punishments available in the UK were already the same as those in the US, but said it was more a question of ‘whether they are being used in the right way’.
He said a national working group would look at gathering statistics for attacks on police animals which often go unrecorded to help inform future policy. Mr McPartland said Mr Lewis’s response was ‘very positive’ but that ‘it’s important to get the details right’.
He said he will keep up the pressure on ministers to ensure this is done.