Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Fourth Special Report

Conclusion and recommendation on delegated powers

Recommendations 33 to 35

33. The power that would be delegated under clause 6 is very broad. We are unconvinced by the Minister's justification for the breadth of the clause 6(1) delegated power. (Paragraphs 146 and 151)

34. The suggestion that the mechanism of judicial review would provide a sufficient limitation on the exercise of the clause 6(1) power is unacceptable. (Paragraph 152)

35. We are disappointed by the Minister's reluctance to consider redrafting the clause 6(1) power in order to limit its breadth. We recommend that the Government amend clause 6 so that:

  • a more precise word than "promote" is used: "ensure" seems sensible, provided that it continues to be used in clause 3
  • the appropriate national authority must certify that any draft regulation proposed to be made under clause 6(1) is justified either on the basis of scientific evidence or because it meets a genuine welfare need evidenced by the consultation process on the proposed draft regulations. (Paragraph 155)

We do not accept that the regulation-making powers contained in the Bill are unreasonably broad. Similar regulation-making powers for promoting the welfare of farmed animals are already conferred on Ministers under section 2 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 and have thus been in existence for over thirty years. The absence of a similar power to promote the welfare of non-farmed animals is an anomaly that the Bill is designed to address. Given the complexity of animal welfare, it is highly appropriate that this provision should be framed as a regulation-making power. As a result of the need to use primary legislation to update the law for non-farmed animals, there has been a widening gap between the welfare standards that apply to farmed and non-farmed animals. We believe that the Bill addresses this in the most appropriate and direct way. In deciding whether to make regulations, codes or to use other means to promote animal welfare, we will of course need to follow general principles concerning the proper use of legislative powers, including the need to ensure that the degree of regulation is proportionate and not excessive.

We judge that the use of the word 'ensure' in this clause would be inappropriate. It would be impossible to say that any set of regulations would 'ensure' welfare. The Bill therefore enables regulations to be made which 'promote the welfare of animals' and restricts the scope of regulations to those which move the welfare of animals in a positive direction. The concepts of "promote" and "ensure" differ and, whereas in some instances one will be broader than the other, an obligation to "ensure" a given result could preclude the making of any regulations, thus reducing opportunities to improve animal welfare.

We do not consider that certification is necessary. Consultation, pre-legislative scrutiny where appropriate, and parliamentary debate will ensure that any proposals from the Secretary of State are fully debated in an open and transparent fashion. While we shall take into account the latest scientific evidence when assessing the level of regulation that should apply to a particular activity, there are other issues such as good practice that we shall also need to consider. Any regulations introduced must be for the purpose of promoting the welfare of animals in accordance with subsection (1).

Recommendation 36

We recommend that clearer requirements about the way in which licensing powers are to be exercised should be included on the face of the legislation, rather than being left for the appropriate national authority to specify under delegated legislation. It should be clearly stated that the licensing authority has the power to attach welfare conditions to a licence and to revoke a licence. The legislation should also require the licensing authority to have regard, in issuing a licence, to relevant guidance laid down in the form of codes of practice issued by the appropriate national authority under clause 7. (Paragraph 161)

We accept that there should be clear requirements on the face of the Bill concerning licensing and registration, and will accordingly include more detailed provisions. These clarify the roles and powers of local authorities, as well as the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales, and will be contained in a separate clause on licensing and in a new schedule.

Recommendation 37

We recommend that the Government re-examine the issue of whether the degree of detail in clause 6(2) could potentially circumscribe the generality of the clause 6(1) delegated power in ways which the Government does not intend. (Paragraph 163)

We accept this recommendation and will amend the subsection so that there is a clearer link between this clause and the welfare clause by referring to the needs listed in the welfare clause. The appropriate national authority will be able to introduce regulations giving more detail as to the needs and how they should be met in specific circumstances. We agree that the published draft of subsection (2) could inadvertently have curtailed the power in subsection (1) and we have now overcome this problem.

Recommendation 38

We recommend that the Government amend clause 1 so as to require the appropriate national authority to certify that any draft order proposed to be made under clause 1(5) is justified either on the basis of scientific evidence or because it meets a genuine welfare need evidenced by the consultation process on the proposed draft regulations. (Paragraph 166)

Consultation, pre-legislative scrutiny where appropriate, and parliamentary debate will ensure that any proposals from the Secretary of State are fully debated in an open and transparent fashion. As mentioned above, there are issues other than scientific evidence which it will be necessary to consider before regulations can be introduced. We do not consider that certification is necessary.

Recommendations 39 to 42

39. We endorse the inclusion of a duty for the appropriate national authority to consult on any draft code of practice which the authority proposes to make under clause 7, as set out in clauses 8(1)(b) and 9(1)(b). We believe that an obligation to consult on draft codes of practice should improve the quality and relevance of the final codes. (Paragraph 175)

40. Given the Government's readiness to include a duty to consult on draft codes of practice, we are extremely disappointed by the Minister's refusal to include a parallel duty to consult on draft regulations. Regulations made under clause 6(1), and orders made under clause 1(5), will form part of the law of the land—regulations made under clause 6(1) may create criminal offences and repeal primary legislation, amongst other things—whereas codes of practice will exist primarily for the purpose of guidance. We do not accept the Minister's argument that, as Defra intends to consult on draft regulations anyway, there is nothing to be gained by including a requirement to consult on the face of the Bill. The Cabinet Office code of practice has no legal force and cannot require government departments to consult; nor is there any obligation for the National Assembly for Wales—an appropriate national authority under clause 6(1) and clause 1(5)—to adopt the code of practice. If the Minister intends to consult appropriately on all draft regulations anyway, he can have no objection to a requirement to consult being included on the face of the draft Bill. (Paragraph 176)

41. We recommend that clause 6 should be amended to place a duty on the appropriate national authority to consult on any draft regulation which the authority proposes to make under clause 6(1). This duty should be in equivalent terms to the duty for the appropriate national authority to consult on any draft code of practice which the authority proposes to make under clause 7, as set out in clauses 8(1)(b) and 9(1)(b). (Paragraph 177)

42. Likewise, we recommend that clause 1 should be amended to place a duty on the appropriate national authority to consult on any draft order which the authority proposes to make under clause 1(5). This duty should be in equivalent terms to the duty for the appropriate national authority to consult on any draft code of practice which the authority proposes to make under clause 7, as set out in clauses 8(1)(b) and 9(1)(b). (Paragraph 178)

We accept this recommendation. We will insert a duty to consult.

Recommendation 43

We suggest to Defra that, if it intends to continue to use working groups to formulate animal welfare policy, then it would be well-advised to formalise the process by which the groups' membership and programme of work is decided, in order to ensure transparency and build confidence in the quality of those undertaking this work. (Paragraph 179)

The criteria for the working groups on the secondary legislation were that the members should reflect as broad a range of opinion as possible and be capable of working constructively with people who hold differing views. We accept that in one or two cases, some groups have felt excluded from what, by its nature, cannot be a totally inclusive process. However, we consider that these criteria should continue to be used as far as possible, although we recognise that there could be occasions where it may be necessary to depart from them. To put in place a formal selection process based on Nolan procedures would be excessively resource intensive for temporary working groups that only meet a few times and whose output is subsequently subject to public consultation.

Recommendations 44 and 45

44. We recommend that the Secretary of State agree to enter into a 'memorandum of understanding' with this Committee, undertaking to:

  • publish in draft form any regulation proposed to be made under clause 6(1) or order proposed to be made under clause 1(5)
  • inform the Committee of such publication
  • allow the Committee a period of 30 sitting days in which to report to the House on the draft instrument
  • agree that no motion to approve may be made until either the period of 30 sitting days has elapsed or the Committee reported to the House on the draft instrument, whichever occurs first.

The memorandum of understanding should make it clear for what period of time such an arrangement should apply. It should also provide for the possibility that an exception could be made to this arrangement in circumstances of genuine emergency. (Paragraph 184)

45. If such a process were adopted, the Committee would have flexibility to decide either to call for evidence on the draft regulation or order and to examine it thoroughly, or to decide at an early stage that the draft regulation or order did not warrant a thorough examination and to report to the House that it had no matters to raise. (Paragraph 185)

We agree with the Committee that pre-legislative scrutiny is likely to be beneficial in these sensitive areas, and are grateful to the EFRA Committee for its offer of assistance. We wish to consider further the right mechanism for taking this forward and will wish to discuss with the authorities of the House of Lords as well as the EFRA Committee.

Conclusion and recommendation on enforcement, prosecution and penalties

Recommendation 46

We recommend that the clauses on enforcement should be set out in the draft Bill as they would occur chronologically. The current arrangement of the enforcement provisions in the draft Bill does not follow a logical sequence, is unduly complicated and is difficult to follow. (Paragraph 190)

We accept this recommendation. The order of the clauses on enforcement will be improved, with a simpler structure that deals in sequence with emergency powers, powers of entry and inspection, prosecutions and orders which may be made upon conviction.

Recommendation 47

Defra has acknowledged that the period for which an animal taken into possession can be retained needs to be reviewed. We recommend the retention of the existing legal position, whereby there would not be a time limit on the retention of an animal in distress but its owner would have the immediate right to apply to court for its return. (Paragraph 195)

We accept this recommendation. The scheme for taking animals in distress into possession will be altered. There will no longer be any time limit for their keeping. The owner or other person with a sufficient interest in the animals will be able to apply for their release at any time after they are taken into possession. The Bill will allow action in an emergency, with an appropriate power of entry in support of these powers. There can be an application for the release of an animal at any stage, and the court will be able to make orders in relation to animals which have been taken into possession under the emergency powers. We feel this scheme provides protection for animals whilst at the same time protecting the rights of those with an interest in the animal, and preserves the role of the court whilst seeking to avoid unnecessary applications.

Recommendation 48

We recommend that the current provisions on reimbursement of reasonable costs in the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000 should be reflected throughout the draft Bill, so that inspectors and prosecutors are able to be reimbursed only for reasonable costs incurred by them in the performance of their functions under the Bill. (Paragraph 199)

We will amend the draft Bill so that the Magistrates' court may order that the person who incurs expense in dealing with a distressed animal may be reimbursed. It will be for the court, on the basis of the evidence put before it, to decide the amount to be reimbursed and by whom. We do not consider it necessary to put on the face of the Bill that the court should only order reasonable expenses to be reimbursed since as a public body the court has a duty to act reasonably in any event.

Recommendation 49

We are satisfied it is appropriate that constables and inspectors should be empowered to authorise the killing of a protected animal where there is no reasonable alternative. However, we consider that constables and inspectors would be greatly assisted in their functions if the term "reasonable alternative" was defined in the Bill. Furthermore, we seek assurances from the Government that those persons tasked with animal inspection work will be properly trained in animal behaviour so as to recognise when it will be necessary to kill an animal; constables and inspectors should also be trained to kill an animal in as humane a way as possible. (Paragraph 203)

We do not consider that the term 'reasonable alternative' is capable of further definition. We cannot foresee all the situations which might present themselves, and an element of discretion needs to be given to those dealing with emergencies. What is reasonable in each case will depend on all the facts and is best assessed by the inspectors and constables on the ground at the time. Some inspectors will be qualified veterinary surgeons and will therefore have received relevant training. Clearly it would be a good idea for local authority officers and the police to receive training in how to deal with suffering animals in an emergency and we will be considering how best to achieve this.

Recommendation 50

We consider that the powers contained in clauses 39 and 40 are appropriate. We believe that the serious nature of offences against animals justifies empowering constables and inspectors to enter premises, other than premises used solely as private dwellings, without a warrant on the basis of reasonable suspicion or belief that an offence is being or has been committed or that evidence of a relevant offence is on the premises. (Paragraph 206)

The draft Bill will be amended so that premises may only be entered for the purposes of searching for evidence of a suspected offence under the authority of a warrant. This change has been made after careful consideration of human rights law in this area. Recent authority, including the case of Camenzind v Switzerland RJD-III 2880 states that powers of search and seizure must be proportionate and subject to adequate safeguards. In that case, the European Court of Human Rights said that it would be particularly vigilant where national law allowed searches without judicial warrant and stated that very strict limits on such powers are necessary in order to protect individuals from arbitrary interference.

We have taken the view that, given the general approach to search and seizure in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, it would be difficult to justify a power to enter without a warrant to search for evidence of offences under the Bill, where no similar power was necessarily available in relation to other, possibly more serious offences.

Recommendation 51

To avoid confusion, we recommend that the Government amend the Bill to clarify what is meant by "any part of premises which is used as a private dwelling." (Paragraph 208)

The phrase used in the Bill is 'entry into any part of premises which is used as a private dwelling'. We do not consider this to be ambiguous. The antecedent of "which" is "part". In other words, if there is a part of a dwelling which is not used as a private dwelling, such as an office in the garage, then there might be a right of entry without a warrant in respect of this part. The phrase therefore takes the meaning in the second bullet point of paragraph 207 of the report, and the assumption in paragraph 208 is incorrect.

Recommendation 52

We endorse the underlying intention of the powers of entry in the draft Bill, namely that inspectors and constables should not be permitted to enter a private dwelling unless they have first obtained a warrant. We recommend that the Bill should provide greater powers of entry so that entry would not be permitted, without a warrant, to premises used only as a private dwelling. This would allow inspectors to enter premises used as both business premises and private dwellings, such as farm premises, without a warrant. (Paragraph 214)

We do not agree with this recommendation, though we know that such a provision is to be found in other legislation and we appreciate that LACORS, in particular, have requested this power. We take the view that, in order to protect occupiers of private dwellings, it is appropriate to require inspectors to obtain a warrant if they wish to enter parts of the dwelling used partly for business purposes and partly as a home. So, for example, where a farmer keeps his records in the kitchen, then it is inappropriate to allow entry against the will of the occupier without a warrant. Even though the kitchen may not be used only as a dwelling, that is still one of its uses. Furthermore, entry into such a room might involve walking through other more private parts of a home, and we therefore feel that a warrant is appropriate to protect the inspector against allegations of unlawful entry into those parts, as well as to protect the rights of the occupier.

Recommendation 53

We recommend that the Government give consideration to implementing the suggestion made by the Association of Chief Police Officers that one set of justifications should be adopted, instead of different powers in different statutes, setting out the circumstances in which a private dwelling may be entered without a warrant. (Paragraph 215)

We will forward this recommendation to the Home Office. It is outside the scope of this Bill.

Recommendation 54

Given that both inspectors and constables will be exercising the powers of entry and search under the draft Bill, we recommend that the draft Bill should be amended to include a requirement that the codes of practice issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 in connection with the exercise of those powers should be complied with when exercising search and entry powers under the Bill. (Paragraph 218)

The codes of practice in PACE which relate to search and seizure are applicable to the police only and are drafted as such. They are not suitable for use in connection with powers under this Bill. We do not object in principle to drawing up a similar code for searches under the Bill but this cannot be done immediately. In any event, the requirements of sections 15 and 16 of PACE do apply to applications for, and execution of, warrants under the Bill. In addition, Schedule 2 of the Bill contains other safeguards.

Recommendations 55 and 56

55. As currently drafted, there is nothing in the draft Bill to prevent an RSPCA inspector, or an employee of any other charitable organisation, from being appointed as an inspector under the legislation, because the Secretary of State is not prevented from including them on a list of suitable persons. We have only Defra's stated intention that the list will extend to only the State Veterinary Service and local authorities. If this is indeed Defra's intention, then we recommend that it should be specified on the face of the Bill. Currently, the draft Bill effectively delegates an unlimited power to the Secretary of State to decide who may act as an inspector. At the very least, the Bill should specify the appropriate categories of person or 'characteristics' of persons who may be appointed to the role. We further recommend that the draft Bill be amended to specify how inspectors will be appointed in Wales: currently, clause 44 makes reference only to the Secretary of State; no mention is made of the National Assembly for Wales. (Paragraph 224)

56. We believe that the RSPCA has performed a valuable role in ensuring animal welfare, and that it should be encouraged to continue to do so. Nevertheless, it is a ultimately a charitable body and therefore should have a separate and distinct role from "inspectors" appointed to enforce the draft Bill. To avoid confusion with the RSPCA's own inspectors, we recommend that the Government consider changing the term "inspector" in the draft Bill to "approved person", "approved officer", or some other term that sits appropriately with relevant legislation. (Paragraph 226)

The term 'Inspector' for those appointed by the Secretary of State and local authorities is prevalent throughout animal health legislation and we judge that to use different terminology in this Bill would be more confusing rather than less.

The draft Bill will be amended to deal with appointment of inspectors in Wales.

We do not expect RSPCA Inspectors to be appointed as inspectors to undertake work on behalf of local authorities. But if they are so appointed, they, like any person appointed by the local authority to inspect on its behalf, will be accountable to the local authority for their behaviour and performance in that capacity.

Recommendation 57

We recommend that the draft Bill should be amended to ensure that the standard with which an inspector must comply in order not to be held criminally or civilly liable is the same as the standard applied to constables exercising equivalent powers. (Paragraph 228)

The relevant clause seeks to protect inspectors acting in good faith against personal liability. We wish to retain this protection. There are precedents for this approach, for example in the Food Safety Act 1990. This approach is seen as particularly important in the field of animal welfare, since inspectors may need to act swiftly and on their own initiative in order to protect an animal from suffering. In addition, provided an inspector is acting in good faith and reasonably, then it is unlikely that a tort or crime has been committed. However, we will redraft the clause to make it clear that this protection is only afforded to the inspector personally, and not, for example, to the local or national authority that employs him and which could still be vicariously liable for his actions in the course of his employment.

Recommendation 58

We consider that it is imperative that there is consistency in animal welfare enforcement between local authorities. It is most unsatisfactory and inequitable to have different standards of enforcement in different regions. We therefore recommend that the Government should adopt a system, such as a database, to ensure that enforcement across licensing departments in England and Wales is consistent. The information should be entered and held by local authorities. Although the RSPCA should be permitted to have access to the information, we consider it wholly inappropriate that the RSPCA should be given responsibility for compiling and maintaining the database. (Paragraph 233)

We agree that consistency in enforcement standards is important and that the establishment of the database would assist local authorities in raising enforcement standards and achieving a greater degree of consistency in the quality of their enforcement work. Any database would be held by central government. We will be looking at ways to improve data sharing between enforcement agencies, consistent with data protection legislation. RSPCA inspectors and prosecutors would have access to the database on an individual basis, rather than the entire organisation obtaining access.

Recommendation 59

We recommend that provision should be made to provide that compensation may be made available to persons whose animals have been dealt with under clauses 16 or 17 but who have subsequently been acquitted of any animal welfare charges. The draft Bill should be amended to specify and limit the circumstances in which a court can order the slaughter of an animal. It should specify that the court can make such an order only where no reasonable or humane alternative exists. (Paragraph 236)

We consider that a power to remove animals in an emergency is extremely important in order to provide adequate protection where necessary. We therefore feel that the provisions in the Bill are an improvement on the present very restricted powers of protection to be found in the Protection of Animals Acts.

In the Bill, the powers to deal with animals in distress and the power of the court to make orders in relation to animals removed in an emergency are no longer linked to the existence or otherwise of prosecutions. If an owner or keeper feels that his animal has been wrongly removed or should no longer be retained, he may apply to the court at any time for its return. No compensation would ordinarily be payable following a successful application for the return of animals removed using powers in the Bill if the defence of statutory authority is available.

Obviously, however, there is a need to exercise this power in a reasonable and proportionate manner, and compensation could therefore become appropriate if it was established that the power had been exercised unreasonably. We hope that such cases will be extremely rare, but if this should occur the claimant would be able to bring an action under existing procedures.

If an owner or keeper is aggrieved at an order made by a court in relation to an animal which has been removed, then the appropriate remedy would be to appeal against that order.

It is suggested that the draft Bill should be amended to state specifically that the court may only order the slaughter of an animal removed in an emergency where no reasonable humane alternative exists. We consider that it is highly unlikely that a court would make such an order if a reasonable alternative did exist. However, we are unwilling to tie the hands of the courts by inserting such a provision since it is impossible to foresee all the different sets of circumstances which may present themselves, and it is felt that the courts should be relied upon to make reasonable orders taking into account all relevant factors. If an order is felt to be unreasonable then the owner or keeper is protected by his right of appeal. In addition, the courts are bound to act in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and will be mindful of this duty.

Recommendation 60

We consider that improvement notices would assist in ensuring that proceedings are commenced only in appropriate cases. They would not only save court time but could also encourage owners to improve standards of animal welfare. We recommend that, although enforcement agencies should have a discretion to issue improvement notices for protected animals, that discretion and the relevant procedural requirements should be specified on the face of the Bill. This should include a right of appeal on the part of the person to whom an improvement notice is issued. (Paragraph 242)

We have considered carefully whether it would be appropriate to include a requirement for improvement notices and agree that in general those responsible for animals should be given a clear indication of what they need to do to avoid prosecution under the welfare offence. Prosecution should be the last resort. This is in keeping with guidelines on enforcement. However, we also believe that prosecutors should have the discretion to proceed directly to a prosecution if that is what is required in the circumstances.

Since this is a common informers' offence we do not judge it appropriate to place a requirement to issue notices on the face of the Bill. The difficulties of ensuring consistency and quality control over the contents of formal improvement notices issued by private prosecutors would detract significantly from their value to the recipient. However, we note the RSPCA's commitment to providing suitable advice before proceeding to prosecution, and public authorities which prosecute will continue to follow the relevant guidance which requires the service of a notice setting out the recommended steps to be taken. Inspectors' powers to issue improvement notices in relation to farmed animals will not be affected.

Recommendation 61

We recommend that clause 15(2)(c) be deleted from the Bill if the Government is unable to demonstrate a convincing reason for its inclusion. The Government should explain to whom it intends the powers of a prosecutor would be delegated under clause 15(2)(c) if it is not to the RSPCA. We consider it wholly inappropriate that prosecution powers under the draft Bill should be able to be exercised by any organisation other than the Police, the State Veterinary Service and local authorities. (Paragraph 250)

This point reflects a misunderstanding. Clause 15(2)(c) referred to agreements along the lines of the agreement with the RSPCA under the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 2000. The 2000 Act agreement did not give power to prosecute, but power to make additional applications for disposal orders in relation to a commercial animal that was the subject of an ongoing prosecution. The RSPCA has always had the power to prosecute for offences under the 1911 Act and will continue to be able to prosecute under the Bill. Clause 15(2)(C) of the draft Bill has been superseded, and provisions relating to written agreements with the Secretary of State will appear in the clauses that deal with applications for orders relating to animals seized under the emergency powers.

Recommendation 62

We consider that the RSPCA should be able to continue to institute private prosecutions on its own behalf. (Paragraph 258)

We agree with this recommendation. It was never our intention to remove the power for the RSPCA to bring a prosecution.

Recommendation 63

We consider that the gravity of the offences under the draft Bill should be reflected in increased sentencing powers. We recommend that certain offences should be triable 'either way'—that is, either summary or indictable—in order to give the courts the ability to impose longer sentences in appropriate cases, and we urge Defra to take this matter up with the Home Office. The offences which should be triable 'either way' should be the clause 2 fighting offence and the most serious cruelty offences under clause 1. We note that such offences would necessarily involve premeditation, whereas a welfare offence might not necessarily be intentional. (Paragraph 264)

We have consulted further with the Home Office who have confirmed both that the sentences are proportionate and that there is no evidence for pressure from courts for sentencing powers that go beyond those contained in the draft Bill (see the written memorandum sent to the Committee by the Magistrates' Association Sentencing Committee).

The Committee highlighted a seeming anomaly that theft of an animal would be an offence triable either way, whereas cruelty to an animal would not. However, the law on theft applies to theft of any object, not just animals, and so has to be triable either way to ensure that the most serious cases can go to Crown Court.

Recommendation 64

We welcome the Government's intention to close the loophole in the current provisions on disqualification by ensuring that an offender cannot circumvent disqualification by transferring ownership and, therefore, custody of an animal. However, we consider that clause 26 does not achieve this intention and we therefore recommend that the activities prohibited by clause 26 of the draft Bill should be extended to include "having custody, control or the power to control animals". (Paragraph 267)

The current power to disqualify is a power to disqualify from having 'custody' of animals. The court has no power to disqualify a person from owning animals at the moment. Therefore, it is not the case that owners need to transfer 'ownership and therefore custody' in order to evade disqualification, as stated by the Committee report.

We do not wish to retain the term 'custody', since this is the term which enforcement authorities currently have difficulty in interpreting. The clause will be redrafted to include an option allowing the court to disqualify a person from 'being party to an arrangement under which he is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept.'

Recommendation 65

We recommend that fighting should automatically attract a disqualification order. We further recommend that certain animal cruelty offences carried out for a profit, such as making 'snuff' videos, should also attract automatic disqualification to reflect the seriousness of the offence (Paragraph 269).

Automatic disqualification prevents the courts from imposing sentences and orders which are proportionate and suited to the facts of the case. We resist the idea of mandatory disqualification orders, particularly as a disqualification engages the rights set out in article 1 of the first protocol to the ECHR (right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions). Such automatic orders could be disproportionate and breach those rights.

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