Page 2146 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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of other magistrates bemoaning over the years the fact that the penalties available to them to impose for cruelty to animals are totally inadequate.

I thank Dr Foskey for the correlation about cruelty towards animals leading to violence towards humans. That is absolutely true, as a number of studies have shown. When the FBI analysed the lives of serial killers it found that most of them had killed or tortured animals as children. Martin Bryant used to shoot all the cats in the neighbourhood and torture them. We all know what he did in the Port Arthur massacre. This bill is just one step, but a very important step, towards deterring and, hopefully, combating to a large degree cruelty to animals.

I turn to some of the points raised by the Acting Attorney-General. Predictably, the ALP is not supporting the bill. I note that the ALP has been moved to take some action in terms of introducing, I think she said, another section to the act. I suppose that is something. The Acting Attorney-General also mentioned the provision which was passed by the Assembly requiring a psychological assessment. I think that the government actually opposed the provision passed by the Assembly. Ros Dundas moved it as an amendment to my bill and we supported it at the time, as did Kerrie Tucker, I think, but I think you will find that the government opposed it. At least we got that through last year.

The government says that a penalty of five years imprisonment would be too much as it would mean that the case would have to go to the Supreme Court. The government is wrong there. The Magistrates Court can deal with any offences concerning acts against a person or any other offences which carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 14 years or, if it is a property offence not involving violence, 10 years. A maximum penalty of five years imprisonment is something that invariably is dealt with in the Magistrates Court. That is basically what you can get for assault occasioning bodily harm of a human, such as a punch to someone’s nose which breaks it or a cut lip. That is an assault occasioning actual bodily harm for which there is a maximum penalty of five years. Invariably, it would be dealt with in the Magistrates Court.

The government seems to have a big hang-up about the fact that the maximum penalties I was proposing for cruelty to animals were more than those for a common assault. Yes, Ms Gallagher, a common assault is basically a slap across the face, but you would only get two years for that, I suggest, if you had a shocking record. But a common assault is something as simple as that and it does carry a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment.

In my view, that is woefully inadequate for some of the more serious acts of torture against animals but, as that was the government’s main objection then, I have put forward in good faith amendments which seek to increase the maximum penalty from a fine of $10,000 or imprisonment for one year to a fine of $20,000 or imprisonment for two years and provided for a concurrent increase in some lesser offences. So, far from being a slapdash approach, it is actually quite a considered approach, Ms Gallagher. I do have a fair degree of expertise in criminal law and I have been around long enough to hear a number of magistrates bemoan the fact that these penalties are woefully inadequate.

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