24 May 2022

USPCA slams animal welfare law after Claudy man's sentence

The organisation have said the punishments given do not fit the crime.

USPCA slams animal welfare law after Claudy man's sentence

The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) has hit out at what it called the 'shortcomings of the justice system' after a Claudy man received a second lifetime ban and suspended sentence.

Michael Conwell, Slievebuoy Park, Claudy, was handed a four-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a fine of £7,500, as well as being subject to a lifetime ban on owning animals in 2017.

In March 2021, Conwell received a nine-month suspended sentence, a £3,000 fine and a further lifetime ban from owning animals.

USPCA Chief Executive, Brendan Mullan, however, has said the suspension of a custodial sentence is 'difficult to comprehend'.

"We cannot ignore the shortcomings of the Justice system," he said.

"Conwell has received not one, but two suspended sentences linked to badger baiting - one of the most callous, premeditated acts of animal cruelty which causes inconceivable suffering to not only the innocent badgers, but also to the dogs that are forced to engage in this activity.

"Whilst suspending a custodial sentence in the first instance may be justified, the decision to do this on a second occasion is difficult to comprehend.

"Northern Ireland has some of the toughest provisions for animal cruelty in Europe including five-year custodial sentences, lifetime animal bans, and £20,000 fines, but these are relatively meaningless if not being applied by the Courts. 

"Conwell's punishment on both occasions is in no way fitting of the crime and will not serve as a future deterrent for him or other like-minded individuals."

Calling for the introduction of a Banned Offenders' Register to ensure animals do not end up in the hands of 'dangerous individuals', Mr Mullan said current bans were ineffective.

"If these bans are effective, how can we see the same individual banned from owning animals in 2017 and back in Court this year for animal related offences?" he said.

"As it stands, we have no guarantee that he or other banned offenders will be unable to obtain another animal which will most likely be subject to the same terrible ordeals and suffering as those before.

"This case has highlighted the glaring ineffectiveness of such bans and underlines the need for significant change to animal welfare regulation.

"We believe that the introduction of a register, similar to a sex offenders register, is the next vital step needed to address the issues which have arisen from Conwell’s ban, and undoubtedly the many other breached lifetime bans that may be out there.

"The actions arising on the back of this case are twofold; we need the Courts to use our animal cruelty legislation to full effect when sentencing offenders, and a Banned Offenders Register is urgently required to stop repeat offending and to put an end to animal suffering," he added.

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