North East Herts MP calls for Commons to create new law in wake of brutal attack on police dog Finn

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald with PC Dave Wardell and PD Finn at the IFAW Animal Action Awar

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald with PC Dave Wardell and PD Finn at the IFAW Animal Action Awards 2017 ceremony at parliament. Picture: IFAW - Credit: Archant

North East Herts MP Sir Oliver Heald has proposed a new law to the House of Commons which would make it an offence to attack a service animal such as a police dog or horse.

It follows the brutal stabbing of police dog Finn and his handler PC Dave Wardell in Stevenage last year after which a 16-year-old boy from Lewisham was given four-month sentence in a detention centre.

He was sentenced under current laws covering service animals which means the punishments available are limited to causing criminal damage, but campaigners outraged by Finn’s injuries including Sir Oliver want the law changed.

PD Finn and PC Wardell were chasing the boy through a back garden in Stevenage’s Denton Road on October 5 last year when the boy reared up wielding a 12-inch combat knife and stabbed the German shepherd through the chest, before cutting the police officer’s hand.

PD Finn, who was eight at the time, had life-saving surgery to have parts of one lung removed.

On Tuesday last week, Sir Oliver put forward a motion in the House of Commons for permission to bring in The Service Animals Offences Bill, which would create a specific offence of attacking service animals, including police dogs and horses.

It would also make certain offences aggravated when carried out against such animals, which this also covering guide dogs and assistance dogs.

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Sir Oliver said afterwards: “The minister Nick Hurd MP spoke to me afterwards and offered his help, so I am hoping the Home Office may help with the drafting of the bill and support it.

“Michael Gove has also said he will look to see how the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs might assist. The bill has now had its first reading in parliament and is scheduled for debate on February 23. I am hoping we might be able to take the next stage ‘on the nod’.”

Last year a group of campaigners took the issue to a parliamentary select committee with support from Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland.

Policing minister Brandon Lewis helped ensure the Sentencing Council reviewed its sentencing guideline for magistrate’s courts dealing with animal cruelty offences. The new guidelines ensured tougher sentences for those found guilty of attacking an animal being used in public service but fell short of a change in the law.