Introduce fixed penalty notices for less serious animal health offences
The Scottish Government considers that there is now a need for an additional level of enforcement that does not require referral to the procurator fiscal nor involvement of the Scottish courts, but provides a meaningful and dissuasive penalty for those who are considered to have committed a relevant animal health offence, and which will thereby promote future compliance with legislative requirements.
The Government considers that enforcement authorities should be empowered to issue fixed penalty notices in relation to relevant less serious animal health offences (e.g. those arising in relation to non-compliance of biosecurity codes). It proposes that such fixed penalties would be set, by regulations, at an amount that provides a proportionate but effective deterrent.
There is currently no provision in the Act which specifically gives the Scottish Ministers the power to make regulations providing for the use of fixed penalty notices. The Scottish Government proposes conferring such a specific power on the Scottish Minsters in relation to animal health offences. This power could be used to make appropriate regulations permitting the use of fixed penalty notices. The power could also be used to update such regulations in future. Such fixed penalty notices would provide an alternative to referral to the procurator fiscal for various specified offences.
An amendment to the Act to provide for such a power would be in step with proposals for a similar power in relation to animal welfare offences. The Government recently consulted on proposals to amend the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 to make provision for fixed penalty notices in relation to less serious animal welfare offences such as identification and licensing rules (e.g. microchipping of dogs). The Scottish Government considers it also to be beneficial to introduce a similar power for appropriate animal health offences, where the consequences of individual non-compliance may be relatively minor, but where general compliance is important to protect the wider population of animals overall and to deter similar behaviour.
It is proposed to amend the Animal Health Act 1981 to include such a power, to allow for secondary regulations which would specify the particular offences in relation to which fixed penalties may be imposed as an alternative to prosecution. It is anticipated fixed penalties would, for example, be made available as an alternative to prosecution for relatively common minor offences such as failure to comply with record keeping requirements. The particular approach to be adopted for different kinds of animal health offence would be set out in the regulations, including the amount of the fixed penalty which may be imposed for each offence. It would be helpful at this stage to receive views on what these offences should be. The alternative of pursuing a prosecution instead of offering a fixed penalty would continue to be available.
Fixed penalty notices are already widely used by enforcement authorities in relation to other kinds of offences, and can be a valuable additional enforcement tool.
It is expected that the new powers for fixed penalty notices would:
- allow minor and technical offences to be dealt with quickly and proportionately,
- promote compliance with legislative requirements, and
- reduce the number of lesser offences being dealt with by courts.
Review existing provisions within the Act and identify any improvements
As the Act is now almost 40 years old we are also looking for views on the effectiveness of the existing provisions within the Act and whether there are any gaps that would help improve animal health standards, both to help prevent an incursion of animal disease and to control and eradicate disease. This marks the start of our review of the Act and there will be further opportunities in future for stakeholders and individuals to provide their views throughout the process.