The hunting world has welcomed the RSPCA’s plans to change the way it carries out prosecutions.
Backlash surrounding expensive hunting cases has lead to a review, the results of which are due next month.
“The review will include a consideration of cases the RSPCA has prosecuted, including those involving hunts,” said an RSPCA spokesman. “Where the RSPCA receives complaints alleging illegal fox hunting, it will investigate them. A prosecution will only be brought where there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so.”
In 2012 the charity was heavily criticised after it spent £326,000 on a case against the Heythrop (pictured above). The RPSCA won, but at the time the judge questioned the “staggering” amount of money spent by the organisation.
Last year, former attorney general Dominic Grieve suggested an independent review into the prosecution policy following a number of costly, high-profile cases. This was undertaken by Stephen Wooler, former chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service.
Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance said the organisation was “glad” the RSPCA was “reconsidering its prosecutions policy”. “This is not just about hunting,” he added. “The charity’s increasingly political stance coupled with its dual role as an investigator and prosecutor concerns many people, so we look forward to seeing the full results of the report. We are currently working with the RSPCA to tackle fly-grazing and hope a return to the charity’s animal welfare roots will lead to us working on many more such projects in the future.”
Ray Goodfellow, chief legal officer of the RSPCA, added: ”We strive to be a reasonable and fair-minded prosecutor and this independent review will provide an effective external measure of our performance and highlight any areas of potential improvement. “We are committed to providing accountability and transparency in this very important area of our work which we recognise has a considerable impact on people’s lives, as well as for the animals we seek to protect.”
Earlier this month H&H reported how donations to the charity had fallen from £112m in 2012 to £105m last year — leaving the RSPCA facing fresh questions over whether its political activity and prosecution policy is alienating its support base.
First published in Horse & Hound magazine on 31 July 2014