RSPCA to have prosecution powers investigated

  • The RSPCA is to have its prosecution powers investigated.

    The Government’s environment and select committee announced yesterday (Tuesday, 22 September) that an inquiry would be forthcoming.

    It will examine if the charity should be allowed to both investigate as well as prosecute animal welfare cases.

    Neil Parish of the committee said it was important to ensure the “right cases” are taken to court,

    “The RSPCA has a unique role in England and Wales as a charity which is the principal prosecutor of animal welfare offences,” said an RSPCA spokesman.

    “It is a role the RSPCA has undertaken for over 190 years and it makes a vital contribution to the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

    In 2014 the charity issued 82,746 welfare and advice notices, compared with 76,810 in 2013.

    The number of people prosecuted which decreased from 1,548 in 2013 to 1,132 in 2014.

    The RSPCA has said it would “welcome a parliamentary inquiry” into the way in which prosecutions are carried out by the charity.

    “An inquiry would provide Parliamentarians with an opportunity to consider the implications of the independent review of the RSPCA’s prosecutions activity carried out last year by Stephen Wooler, the former Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Inspectorate, in which he concluded that the Society should continue its role as a prosecuting body and praised the charity for its ‘huge contribution to animal welfare’,” the spokesman added.

    In July it was announced that the RSPCA would no longer pursue those accused of illegal foxhunting through the courts.

    This decision followed the review by Mr Wooler, after the charity was accused of wasting funds and donations by prosecuting hunters for political reasons.

    The report, carried out last year, made 33 recommendations on the charity’s investigation and prosecution activity.

    One of the criticisms levelled at the RSPCA was the amount of money spent on prosecutions under the Hunting Act.

    The Countryside Alliance’s Tim Bonner said: “We are very supportive of the good work the RSPCA does with abused and neglected animals. However, we believe the problems faced by the charity come back to it not properly separating its campaigning, investigation and prosecution activities.

    “Our legal system has long recognised the problems inherent in one body having multiple roles.

    “The RSPCA should continue to investigate cases of cruelty to animals but should not prosecute them in the courts when the CPS and local authorities already have a statutory duty to do so.

    “We will respond to any consultation exercise carried out on this issue and look forward to the findings of the investigation.”

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