Attendees and apologies
- Jim Wilson, Scottish Government (SG), Justice (Chair)
- Adam Sinclair, SG, Justice
- Mike Flynn, Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA)
- Dave Joyce, Communication Workers Union (CWU)
- Dawn Exley, Scottish Community Safety Network (SCSN)
- Michael Munn, Royal Mail
- [Redacted], Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS)
- [Redacted], Police Scotland
Items and actions
Welcome and introductions
The Chair welcomed working group members to the fourth meeting of the group. As this was the first group meeting that the Police Scotland representative had attended, the Chair provided a brief run through of the history of the working group and related issues such as the literature (LIT) review carried out by SG Justice Analytical Services.
The CWU highlighted that since the last working group meeting there have been a further 6 attacks on UK postal workers. The CWU have arranged a meeting with the Westminster UK Government to discuss further.
The Chair informed the group that SG Officials had visited Dundee earlier in the week to meet with and work shadow the dog warden service in the city. This also included meeting with officers from a local policing department in Lochee, Dundee. The visit had highlighted some of the operational and resource challenges faced by dog wardens and the police.
The Chair advised that the SG plans to invite Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) officials to participate in the next meeting of the group on 23 August.
- SG to do
The SG will provide group members with a complete list of all stakeholders who have provided comments on the draft policy options discussion paper.
- SG to do
The SG was keen to hear from group members if they think that that there is anyone that the SG has not contacted that should be asked to provide comments on the draft policy options discussion paper.
- all – to provide names to SG as necessary
In response the SSPCA suggested that the SG may wish to contact the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).
- SG to contact SCTS
COPFS suggested that the SG contact the Law Society. The Chair advised that the SG previously invited the Law Society to join this working group but they did not have available resource at the time. The SG will however approach the Law Society again to see if they can participate by offering views on the SG discussion paper in writing.
- SG to contact the Law Society
Policy options discussion paper - seizure of dogs
The Chair explained that the primary focus of this meeting was to look at whether new powers should be provided for seizure of dogs in respect of where a court is considering whether a destruction order is being sought and/or in other situations involving a dangerous dog. The Chair asked working group members to speak about the comments they had provided to the SG in relation to seizure of dogs on the policy options discussion paper.
The SCSN would support the strengthening of legislation on seizure of dogs. The SCSN highlighted that 75% of those who replied to the consultation supported new powers being provided for seizure.
The SSPCA highlighted that it can often take at least 9 months for cases to get to court.
Police Scotland highlighted concerns about the current lack of police kennelling facilities. If more power for seizure results in an increase in dogs being kennelled, then this may require financial investment.
In response the Chair said that it would interesting to know what kennelling costs currently were for Police Scotland and local authorities.
The CWU wants to see the law in relation to the seizure of dogs changed and simplified. The CWU would be concerned about kennelling costs getting in the way of justice for dog attack victims. The CWU suggested that convicted irresponsible dog owners should pay kennelling costs. The CWU also suggested that the requirement to obtain a court order or warrant should be removed. The issue of dog owner insurance was raised by CWU, As mentioned at the previous meeting, the CWU were keen to highlight that Dogs Trust membership includes third party public liability insurance for their dog.
In response the Chair advised that compensation and insurance are issues that will need to considered.
Police Scotland considered that the financial impact of any law change would need to be a consideration. But agreed with the CWU that this is an opportunity to amend legislation to ensure that it is fit for purpose.
The SSPCA also highlighted that the suitability of available kennels would need to be a consideration, as at present not all kennels are really suitable for dangerous dogs.
Royal Mail strongly agreed with the points made by the CWU, and want to see the law simplified in relation to seizure and kennelling. On the issue of compensation and insurance, Royal Mail suggested that the SG may want to consider compensation for kennelling costs as well as injury.
COPFS would like clarity on the definition/legal position on what 'dangerously out of control' actually means with regard to the timing of when a seizing officer believes the dog to be out of control. The COPFS representative proposed that it should be amended to “is or has been” dangerously out of control. At present the COPFS representative largely sees section 3 cases, but not many section 1 cases.
The Chair suggested that if there were changes to the law in future then this will require a fresh awareness raising campaign, so that the public are fully aware of their responsibilities and possible consequences if their dog attacks someone etc.
The COPFS representative shared concerns about the cost impact, as more dogs being seized will lead to increased costs for the police and courts. He added that kennelling costs are only a factor in trying to speed the progress of the case and had no impact in any other decisions regarding such cases.
It was suggested by some group members that the SG may want to consider introducing time limits for how long a dog can be kept in a kennels while a case is being progressed etc. However in response the Chair said that the SG would be concerned about the impact of case backlogs and subsequent perceived legislative loopholes, that meant that if time runs out on a case a potentially dangerous dog is returned to its owner.
The CWU reiterated their concern about the possibility of kennel costs potentially stopping reform of the law. In response the Chair assured the CWU that costs would not have a bearing on what options for legislative change this working group put forward to Scottish Ministers. The Terms of Reference document is clear in that the group has been assembled to consider policy matters with no expectation that the group would be tasked with providing financial cost estimates of proposed policy changes Any subsequent legislation would however include a financial memorandum that would highlight the financial cost of reform as one of the accompanying documents that would be prepared alongside the legislation..
The Chair advised that in due course there will be an opportunity to seek views from members who have legal background and expertise to ensure policy proposals for change are legally sound.
Any other business
The SG will circulate a minute of this meeting to group members.
- SG to do
Date of next meeting
The next meeting is due to take place on 23 August 2022.
There is a problem
Thanks for your feedback