‘Horrific’ Tom Price case shows need for tougher abuse sentences *H&H Plus*

  • Tom Price was given the maximum prison sentence available to courts — but this maximum has just gone up significantly. H&H finds out more

    A“HORRIFIC” case of cruelty has shown why tougher sentences are needed as a man with a history of prosecutions for animal mistreatment is jailed for six months.

    Tom Price was found guilty on 32 charges under the Animal Welfare Act, at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court last month, and was given the current maximum sentence. He was also banned from keeping any animals for life.

    On 29 April the Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill received royal assent, meaning courts have the power to impose sentences of up to five years in prison for animal abusers when it comes into force later this year, an increase from six months. The law will bring England, and Wales once the Welsh parliament passes a legislative consent motion, into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    In 2013, Price was jailed for six months for 57 welfare charges, which ran concurrently with an eight-month sentence for breaching an anti-social behaviour order, and banned from keeping horses for five years.

    The case last month was brought to trial by Shared Regulatory Services, the body responsible for environmental health, trading standards and licensing functions in Bridgend, Cardiff, and the Vale of Glamorgan, following work between these authorities, police, Redwings and the RSPCA.

    In January 2020, welfare officers discovered Price was keeping horses in “appalling” conditions at sites in Bonvilston, Coity and Swn-y-Mor. Price was charged with causing unnecessary suffering in relation to eight horses, some of whom were “significantly” underweight, and others with long-standing wounds caused by ill-fitting rugs. Officers were left with “no choice” but to seize 240 horses from the locations.

    Dave Holland, head of Shared Regulatory Services, said: “Price has a track record of mistreating animals and I hope this sentence sends out a message that such neglect and cruelty will not be tolerated in our local authority areas.

    “The decision to hand down a prison sentence and the lifetime disqualification reflects the seriousness of these offences and the extreme suffering Price was responsible for.”

    World Horse Welfare chief executive Roly Owers said this “horrific situation” clearly illustrates why the change in the law to increase prison sentences for the worst cases of animal cruelty is “so badly needed”.

    “As much as we welcome this change, for the increased penalties to have the required effect, we need an equine ID system that is enforceable and enforced. We have been calling for this fundamental requirement for years because welfare legislation simply does not work if you cannot link a horse to their owner,” said Mr Owers.

    “The forthcoming review of equine ID legislation, in the wake of our departure from the EU, is an opportunity for the sector collectively to demand a centralised ID system that is fit for purpose, frictionless and fully digital. This will pave the way for much-needed regulation of breeders and dealers in the future. It really isn’t rocket science and we already have some of the tools, such as the Central Equine Database. If we are serious about protecting welfare, then this is where we must be headed.”

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