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TOUGHER penalties for those convicted of cruelty to animals are to be introduced in Northern Ireland following a review of the implementation of the Welfare of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.
The review was initiated in 2014 by Michelle O'Neill, the minister for agriculture and rural development in Northern Ireland, and was taken forward in conjunction with the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland. The final report of the review was published on February 29.
The report makes 68 recommendations aimed at enhancing communication between enforcement bodies, improving processes and highlighting Northern Ireland's animal welfare service to the public. However, its key recommendations relate to tougher sentencing for more serious offences and the inclusion of the most serious animal welfare offences within the ‘Unduly Lenient Sentences’ scheme. This means that the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland can refer animal welfare cases to the Court of Appeal when a sentence handed down for a case heard by the Crown Court is considered to be unduly lenient.
Ministers in Northern …