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Animal Law Breakfast 2019
Level 25, Tower 2, Collins Square, 727 Collins Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000
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The delicious vegan breakfast is generously provided by Maddocks, and will be followed by the formal launch of LFA's Guide to Animals Cruelty Sentencing and then an informal, Q&A-style panel discussion. The panel will feature one of Victoria’s most senior legal prosecutors of animal cruelty: Wendy Gutteridge of RSPCA Victoria, along with Senior Police Lawyer Anna Leith and Senior Constable Amitoj Singh* both from Victoria Police prosecutions. All will attempt to answer audience queries while sharing their personal experiences working as prosecutors and/or in animal cruelty matters in Australia and (in Wendy’s case) the UK.
Why animal cruelty sentencing matters
The Guide to Animal Cruelty Sentencing is the fruition of LFA’s longest-running project, which commenced more than 10 years ago. The final catalyst for publication is the concluding remarks of the Sentencing Advisory Council in its February 2019 report, Animal Cruelty Offences in Victoria, noting:
… the need to develop guidance on how animal cruelty should be sentenced, with subsequent judicial education about that guidance…
Many of the stakeholders consulted for this report considered that a level of inconsistency exists in how courts sentence animal cruelty offences in Victoria, in terms of both sentencing outcomes and the factors taken into account in determining sentence. The Council could not test this assertion, however, because sentencing remarks are not available for cases heard in the Magistrates’ Court. There is also limited case law in Victoria on the sentencing of animal cruelty offences.
Stakeholders did, however, suggest that some form of guidance for judicial officers (especially magistrates) about sentencing animal cruelty would be helpful in this regard.
LFA has long intended that its Guide to Animal Cruelty Sentencing should help fill this apparent gap, with the specific aim of helping to generate uniform and proportional custodial sentences for perpetrators of serious animal cruelty.
As lawyers, the Executive of LFA do not take the imposition of custodial sentences lightly. We consider the primary motive of every sentencing judge ought be to encourage the offender’s rehabilitation in order to better protect the human and animal community, and we are doubtful imprisonment assists rehabilitation in most cases. However, LFA feels that the secondary sentencing motives of proportionality; specific and general deterrence; and public denunciation; require higher prioritisation by legal decision-makers. This is especially pertinent in the wake of growing community (and political) awareness of animal sentience and consequent intolerance of cruelty to animals, which is not currently being matched by sentencing.
The present disconnect between societal values and judicial sentencing of animal cruelty offenders has myriad historical precedents. The seriousness of sexual and other violence against women, for example, became a core subject for judicial re-education in the early-to-mid 1990s in Australia, when a similar disconnect became apparent. LFA believes that the time has now come for similar educative strategies to be adopted in relation to animal cruelty sentencing, to help reduce animal suffering in future.
Animal Law Breakfast proceeds - our partners
The Animal Law Breakfast has once again been made possible through the generous support of Maddocks, for which LFA is immensely grateful. This year, all proceeds from the ticket price and donated cosmetic items (to be sold on the day) will be evenly divided between two direct animal rescue charities: Maneki Neko Cat Rescue and Big Sky Sanctuary, both of which directly care for the animal victims of cruelty and neglect.
We hope you can join us for this soulful and inspiring way to begin the day, which will also benefit animals so deserving of our help.
* Note: Simone Linham, Victoria Police prosecutor, who was formerly advertised as a partipant in the discussion panel at the Animal Law Breakfast is unfortunately no longer able to attend the event. We are grateful to Senior Constable Amitoj Singh and Senior Police Lawyer Anna Leith for kindly agreeing to join the panel in Simone's absence, bringing their own experiences as lawyers and as police prosecutors.
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