The RSPCA is facing further accusations of wasting taxpayers’ money, after its latest case involving a hunt collapsed.
Keith Watson, his partner Tanya Norlander and daughter Hannah Watson had been accused of interfering with a badger sett on 16 February last year, when Mr Watson, a farmer, was assisting the Cheshire Hunt.
But on the first morning of the trial, at Crewe Magistrates’ Court last week (18 February), RSPCA prosecutors admitted that there was no realistic prospect of conviction.
The case was dismissed.
Tim Bonner of the Countryside Alliance said it was “simply disgraceful” that the charity was “using the criminal justice system to pursue a vindictive campaign against the hunting community”.
He added: “The Watson family have suffered more than a year of stress over a prosecution so unjustified that it fell apart within minutes of the trial starting.
“There is no way on earth that the police and Crown Prosecution Service would have prosecuted on such flawed and weak evidence, but the RSPCA pursued Mr Watson and his family simply because they were part of the Cheshire Hunt.”
The Watsons’ costs, which are likely to exceed £10,000, were awarded from ‘Central Funds’. This means that the taxpayer will pay for the defendants’ costs, as well as those of the aborted three day trial.
In December, a judge questioned the “staggering” amount of money spent by the RSPCA on prosecuting the Heythrop. District Judge Tim Pattinson questioned whether the £326,000 the RSPCA spent on the case was a sensible use of the charity’s funds.