Scottish Government chiefs have pledged to review animal protection laws following a regional daily’s campaign.
As reported on HTFP last month, the Greenock Telegraph took its Justice for Pets campaign in June to the Scottish Parliament in a bid to change the law.
The campaign was brought about after it revealed a man suspected of bludgeoning defenceless animals to death with a golf club at a petting zoo on its patch would not face justice due to a time bar loophole in Scottish animal welfare legislation.
Richard Lochhead, Holyrood’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, made the promise after inviting Telegraph editor Brian Hossack and reporter David Goodwin to meet with him in Edinburgh, where he was presented with a petition signed by more than 5,000 readers.
The Minister has now promised to “seriously consider” the Telegraph’s demand for a change to the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act of 2006 prevents people accused of such offences from being pursued after six months has elapsed.
Police who investigated the 2011 crime reported on by the Telegraph found DNA evidence in 2013 directly linking a then-18-year-old man to the offence.
But Crown prosecutors declared that they couldn’t take the case any further because the breakthrough came more than six months after the commission of the crime.
Mr Lochhead said: “I very much appreciate and understand the outcry amongst the public of Inverclyde — and indeed outwith the area — given the background to this particularly horrible case.
“I can very much understand why people would feel strongly in this case and it does merit a serious look at whether there should be a re-categorisation so that such offences may not be subject to the six-month time bar in the future.
“This could be an example of where the legislation has not caught up and it may be time for a review of the categorisations.”
Telegraph editor Brian Hossack said: “This was a fantastic result after months of hard work by the Greenock Telegraph team.
“To take a campaign all the way to the Scottish Parliament and win an assurance from a Government Minister that the law will be reviewed is tremendous.
“Everyone in the newsroom played a key role and I am immensely proud of all of them and our victory. It shows how, with a talented team and the backing of your community, local newspapers and old fashioned journalism can still make a real difference.”