Time barbaric perpetrators paid price for animal cruelty: Man jailed for setting fire to pet dog Cody
Earlier this year there was outcry at the sentences handed out to four men in my East Belfast constituency who had been convicted of what was described as one of the worst cases of animal cruelty seen here.
Correspondence between Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC and myself confirmed the sentences of six months, suspended for two years, could not be referred by him for appeal.
This was due to the cases being "either way" – i.e. can be heard in either Magistrates or Crown court – and the set-up of sentencing here.
But it has now been revealed by Justice Minister David Ford that, as a direct result of the public's horror, the Public Prosecution Service can now take direct action against lenient sentences handed down in such cases.
Although this will not affect the guilty parties in this particular case, it is welcome news that means similar future instances can be referred to the Court of Appeal.
Only yesterday the person who cruelly set Cody the border collie alight was jailed for 10 months, with 10 months on licence post-release.
While not the maximum sentence, it is a step in the right direction.
For months prior to the original case I referred to coming to light, constituents had approached me looking for help in relation to their missing pets.
Sadly, they had their worst fears confirmed thanks to these men and their vile actions.
People who show such barbarism are not only a danger to the animals involved, but potentially to our society as a whole.
While we can't eradicate the behaviour of those who continue to target animals, this move sends a strong message to those engaging in cruelty that it will be treated with the utmost seriousness by the courts.
It is rare for a custodial sentence to be handed down in animal abuse cases, but hopefully this move will make those liable to commit such offences think twice before doing so.