Stuart McMillan MSP has been given assurances from the Scottish Government that animal welfare legislation will be strengthened, meaning severe animal cruelty offences would not be subject to a time limit for prosecution.
The Greenock and Inverclyde MSP met with the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, on Wednesday 13 March to discuss the aims of the Greenock Telegraph’s ‘Justice For Pets’ campaign.
This meeting was organised after Mr McMillan asked whether the Minister would look at proposals to consider new evidence, irrespective of the length of time that has lapsed since a crime was committed, when it comes to extreme animal cruelty cases. This question was put to the Minister following her Ministerial Statement to the chamber on 9 January.
Following that meeting, Mr McMillan received the following in writing from the Scottish Government:
“…the Scottish Government proposes to increase the maximum available penalties for the offences of causing unnecessary suffering and for animal fighting to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. It intends that the most serious animal welfare offences could, in future, be prosecuted under solemn procedure, removing the statutory time limits for prosecution.”
In response to receiving this news, Mr McMillan said:
“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government is looking to strengthen animal welfare legislation. These proposed changes would mean that for the offence of causing unnecessary suffering, like what happened at Pets Corner in Gourock, no such time bar loophole would exist due to the penalties of these offences being increased.
“Unfortunately these changes would not be retrospective – meaning the individual responsible for the attack in Gourock in 2011 would not be prosecuted. However, it does mean that going forward perpetrators would face justice if new evidence were found at a later date.
“Supporters should be proud that their pressure, along with the campaign by the Greenock Telegraph, will now help change animal welfare legislation for the better.”
There is still time to contribute to the Scottish Government’s Animal Health & Welfare Act Amendment Consultation 2019, which closes on 26 April. Should you wish to offer your views, the public consultation can be accessed online here.