Retired Police Dog Finn is a highly trained and decorated former police dog. He was repeatedly stabbed in the chest and head on 5th October 2016 during an attempted arrest. The injuries suffered by Finn were so severe that he required 4 hours of life saving surgery and 11 weeks of recovery. With the commitment and dedication of his handler PC Dave Wardell, the veterinary team and the Wardell family Finn was able to return to active duty before his planned retirement in March 2017. Had Finn not protected PC Wardell there is little doubt that PC Wardell at best would gave suffered a serious injury or at worst lost his life.
You may be surprised to learn that under UK law there is no specific offence for causing injury to a police animal whilst carrying out their duties. Attacks on police animals are happening daily but very few are pursued through the Courts due to the lack of an appropriate offence. Whilst Finn’s case is thankfully an extreme case, it is by no means unheard of.
FinnsLaw is a campaign being run by a group of volunteers to change this. We are saying that police animals should be recognised for the vital role they fulfil. Part of that recognition should be the creation of a specific criminal offence for causing injury to them.
As a direct result of campaigning so far, some progress towards our aim has been made. March 2017 saw the introduction of new sentencing guidelines which can be taken into effect if a police animal is injured whilst carrying out its duties. Whilst we welcome this step we consider that the reality will be that they will have limited impact. The new sentencing guidelines can only be taken into account as an aggravating factor when the Court consider a suitable sentence.
Police animals are put in harm’s way to protect us in the name of the law. Surely the time has come for the law to protect them?
If you agree that the current position is unacceptable then we need your help. You can show your support by writing to your local MP to express, in your own words, why you think the current laws are inadequate and ask your MP to support our campaign to create a specific criminal offence which will enable cases to be pursued.
We are not proposing to provide a template letter as we believe our campaign will be more successful if MP’s learn of the many different reasons why people support this campaign. We are willing to edit any letters you write if you would like us to assist you. Over the page you will find some facts which may surprise you. They may also help you to understand some of the difficulties this lack of adequate law has created.
If you do not know who your local MP is you can confirm their details on the government website www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ or www.writetothem.com by typing in your postcode. Their address is House of Commons, London. SW1A OAA.
Thank you for taking the time to read about our campaign. If you would like to keep up-to-date with us then please do follow us on twitter and Facebook where we will post developments as they happen.
- Under current UK legislation there are only two potential charges which can be used for injuries inflicted on police animals. They are a) s4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 or b) an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
- s4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 carries a maximum sentence of 6 months imprisonment but is more frequently a fine.
- The Criminal Damage Act of 1971 carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for the most serious of cases.
- The Animal Welfare Act 2006 was not drafted with police animals in mind. It was drafted to protect untrained animals.
- The RSPCA are currently campaigning for stronger sentences to be available for offences committed under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 as they consider them too lenient.
- In order to bring a prosecution under for the Criminal Damage Act 1971 there needs to be evidence of an individual causing either deliberate or reckless damage to property either permanently or temporarily.
- The Crown Prosecution Service is reluctant to bring charges under the Criminal Damages Act due to the difficulties in evidencing damaged property when it comes to police animals.
- The current law does not draw any distinction between police animals and a broken window or a scratched car. They are treated exactly the same.
- The new sentencing guidelines only take effect if a person is found guilty or pleads guilty to a criminal offence. The intention being that as an aggravating factor, any injury caused to a police animal during that primary offence, can entitle the Court to impose a harsher sentence.
- Specific criminal offences for attacking or injuring a police animal have been created and are enforced in 8 States in the USA and in Canada. Texas is also in the process of considering introducing this legislation. Similar offences are also in force in Austria, Germany and Switzerland.
- Guide dogs have, quite rightly, been given protection by way of the creation of a specific offence for causing injury to them.
- The life-threatening injuries inflicted on Finn were considered by the Court to be of insufficient seriousness to warrant any additional sentence. As a result, a “no separate penalty” was delivered by the Court.