New sentencing guideline for dangerous dog offences comes into force

From 20 August 2012, courts in England and Wales will be adopting a tougher approach to the way those convicted of dangerous dog offences are treated as a new sentencing guideline comes into effect.

Published on 15 May, this guideline now comes into force in all courts in England and Wales.

With increasing numbers of convictions for offences involving dangerous dogs in recent years, the new guideline will help ensure courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders.

The Sentencing Council’s guideline aims to provide clear guidance to judges and magistrates to encourage consistency in sentencing and appropriate sentences for owners of dangerous dogs.

The sentencing ranges set out by the guideline mark an increase in sentencing levels from previous practice. The top of the sentencing range for owners allowing their dog to be dangerously out of control injuring someone has been set at 18 months’ custody in order to encourage the courts to use more severe sentences when it would be appropriate to do so.  Previously, sentences have tended to go up to approximately 12 months.

The top of the sentencing range for possession of a prohibited dog has been set at the legal maximum of six months’ custody to encourage courts to use the full range of their sentencing powers for the most serious cases.

It means more offenders will face jail sentences, more will get community orders and fewer will receive discharges.

The guideline will also help courts make the best use of their powers so that irresponsible owners who put the public at risk can be banned from keeping dogs, genuinely dangerous dogs can be put down and compensation can be paid to victims.