Ipswich MP Tom Hunt seeks sentencing change after pet theft debate
PUBLISHED: 11:13 20 October 2020 | UPDATED: 12:30 20 October 2020
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt branded pet theft “a sickening and depraved crime” as he launched a call for penalties to be increased while introducing a petition during a special session at Westminster on Monday.
Mr Hunt was introducing a debate on pet theft in Westminster Hall when MPs can present items that have been inspired by online petitions they have organised. He had drawn up a petition calling for harsher penalties for pet theft – at present if a pet is valued at less than £500 the penalty for its theft is comparatively small.
Now he is hoping that Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland will tell the Sentencing Council to change its guidelines for pet theft to reflect the level of concern that has been expressed by petition signatories.
Opening the debate, Mr Hunt said: “Pet theft is a sickening and depraved crime. I think that those with pets can only imagine the sense of loss and anger and hopelessness if they were snatched away from us in such cruel circumstances.”
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Speaking later, Mr Hunt said there had been two petitions on the subject – one had attracted more than 140,000 signatories and the other 116,000. He said: “I don’t know exactly how many people signed because it is possible that some signed both – but it is clear there were more than 200,000 in all.”
He had spoken to Mr Buckland, who is a cat owner, and was hopeful that he would take this up with the sentencing council because of the all-party consensus on the issue shown by the speakers in Monday’s debated.
Mr Hunt said: “I think in this case that it would probably be better to try to get the sentencing guidelines changed than to try to get a new specific pet theft law introduced – it is more likely to achieve what we are looking for.
“The problem at the moment is that unless there is a very high value for the pet, cases would only go to the magistrates and people would end up with a small fine. Also in many cases police do not investigate what is seen as a low-level crime. If the penalties were higher that could change.”
Mr Hunt took up the cause of pet thefts after being contacted by constituents during the lockdown and after speaking to campaigners from across the country who are trying to get the crime taken more seriously. During the debate he was backed by MPs from different parties and details will be passed to the government.
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