Northern Ireland news

Stormont ministers discuss register for those banned from owning animals

Justice Minister Naomi Long told the Assembly there were 153 convictions at courts for offences under animal welfare legislation between 2018-2020
Rebecca Black, PA

The creation of a register for those banned from owning animals in Northern Ireland has been discussed by Stormont ministers.

Justice Minister Naomi Long told the Assembly there were 153 convictions at courts for offences under animal welfare legislation between 2018-2020.

There were 68 convictions in 2018, 50 in 2019 and 35 in 2020.

Ms Long said while responsibility for legislation and enforcement around the abuse of animals lies with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), her officials will provide advice.

“I recently met with (Agriculture) Minister (Edwin) Poots to discuss proposals for the creation of a register of those banned from owning animals,” she told MLAs.

“Whilst any policy decision regarding a register of those convicted of animal cruelty is purely the responsibility of DAERA, I have agreed that my officials will provide advice with respect to the management of criminal records in order to assist with this work.”

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford described it as “essential” that people who were cruel to animals were prevented from owning them.

Ms Long agreed with Mr Stalford’s statement, but cautioned there was difficulty with such a register in terms of GDPR and access to criminal record information,

“I believe that my department is in a good position to be able to advise the Department of Agriculture in terms of how they can access those records in a meaningful way, depending of course on their ultimate use, because that will determine the level of access to which they are entitled.”

Sinn Féin MLA Declan McAleer asked whether an all-Ireland register was being considered.

Ms Long said there were complexities in terms of sharing criminal record information across the border, adding this was another area on which her officials can give advice.

She added that she was not aware whether Mr Poots had had any discussions with his Irish counterpart on the matter.

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