This week new sentencing guidelines were published for all magistrates’ courts in England and Wales.
The magistrates’ courts have less sentencing power than the crown courts but all criminal cases begin there.
The new sentencing guidelines cover a variety of offences ranging from animal cruelty and driving offences to TV licence evasion.
One area in which I have been lobbying for better sentencing guidelines is dog theft and this unfortunately has not been looked at. I think the Sentencing Council has missed an opportunity here by failing to appreciate this offence.
Dog theft is a rising issue in this country with thousands of dogs being stolen every year and very few ever returned to their owners.
In Kent alone 392 dogs were recorded as stolen between 2011 and 2015.
However, as dog theft is treated like any other property theft and not recorded clearly as dog theft, we are unsure how accurate the police figures are.
It means that when it comes to sentencing for dog theft, a dog which is a family member and well-loved, is treated like any other chattel such as a TV or mobile phone and the sentence is based on monetary value.
Current guidelines do not address the importance of the animal to a family and this change to the guidelines would have been the perfect opportunity to address this issue, which has been overlooked for so long.
There is little point dealing with animal cruelty and doing nothing about dog theft, a cruel crime which causes huge anxiety for dogs and their owners.