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Lord Advocate denies appeal sentence plea

ANTI-PUPPY farm campaigners are appalled that the Lord Advocate, the Scottish equivalent of the Lord Chancellor or Attorney General, has refused to grant an appeal against the lenient sentence handed down to a man accused of puppy farming and the illegal transport of dogs into the UK from Ireland.

John Walsh, 52, was arrested after leaving the port of Cairn Ryan with 49 puppies in the back of a van on July 18th, believed to have been illegally imported from Ireland as part of the flourishing undercover trade in dogs, many of which are sold on the British mainland and in the Middle East. Walsh, from Brampton, Cumbria was prosecuted and appeared at Stranraer Sheriff’s Court on Tuesday 29 July 2003, where he pleaded not guilty.

At his trial in November, the prosecution accepted Walsh’s plea of guilty to Protection of Animals (Scotland) Act 1912 section 11(b) in that he did transport the animals which caused suffering. On all other charges – those of animal welfare breaches - Walsh’s plea of not guilty was accepted. The court fined Walsh £500 and effectively freed him to continue his illegal trade.

WAG applied to the Crown Office to seek an appeal against Walsh’s light sentence. However, the Lord Advocate refused such an appeal last week, giving no reason for doing so.

WAG Secretary Ken McKie told OUR DOGS: "To say that WAG is appalled and disappointed with the decision not to appeal the unrealistically lenient sentence on John Walsh would be the biggest understatement of the year. What message does this send out to all the organisations battling against animal cruelty? What message does it

Lord Advocate denies appeal sentence plea

give to those inhumanely treating animals? It is obviously ‘we don’t care’.

" It is also obvious that this matter is too trivial for the Crown Office to consider any appeal. This man is earning a fortune in the abhorrent trade in puppies and receives not even a slap on the wrist! He claimed to be a reputable trader, he is not he is transporting animals illegally as he does not have the appropriate authority. Any licences for his trade are not in his name so how could he declare in court that he was an honest businessman?

"It is a disgrace that the Crown Office cannot even be bothered to look into the aspect of sentencing. The SSPCA were stunned at such a lenient sentence and it is obvious to all that the suffering of animals has NO interest to the Lord Advocate. We will now be looking to the politicians, who say that they want to stamp out crime, to stand up and be counted and send a strong message to the Lord Advocate that such appalling leniency cannot be allowed to continue.

"People are making fortunes on the back of poor suffering animals and yet the Crown Office feel that the paltry sum of £500 is sufficient penalty. No one asks how this man who allegedly owes Government Agencies, (the Criminal Acquisitions Bureau has allegedly sold his property in Ireland to pay to the Government in Ireland apparently due to his conduct during the foot and mouth outbreak), substantial sums of money could pay for an Advocate to represent him?

"The cost in having such representation is far in excess of the fine imposed, which he could only pay at £50 per month. When will the authorities open their eyes to such criminality and actually make the public confident in the legal process. This message can only be described as a joke and seems to tell the people involved in the illegal trade to carry on the fines will not even be 1% of the money that they can earn.

"We now ask our supporters to plague their politicians and demand action from them. This crime is in the public interest. These poor animals are often riddled with disease, which can, and allegedly has, spread to the ordinary dog in the street. It can be devastating. We even have had a confirmed case of salmonella.

"How long until rabies rears its ugly head and we bet that then every dog owning member of the public will be hounded over their animals. At present they are happier to fine people for their dogs fouling in the public, quite rightly so, but do not want to punish the real criminals. We can only hope that the public at large vent their feelings over this."

The case of Stephen Hamilton who faces similar charges was called today at Stranraer Sheriff’s Court.

He pleaded not guilty and a trial date was set for 3 February 2004