RSPCA to stop chasing hunting cases through courts

  • The RSPCA will no longer pursue those accused of illegal foxhunting through the courts.

    This decision comes following a review by Stephen Wooler, former chief inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), 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.

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    It advised that the RSPCA should continue its role as prosecuting body, but the organisation accepted it needed to adapt its approach to law enforcement.

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

    In 2012, the RSPCA spent £327,000 prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt, in Oxfordshire

    David Bowles, of the RSPCA, said: “We have listened to Stephen Wooler and have acted on his recommendation to adopt a clear policy on how we deal with cases specifically against traditional hunts. We will still look into allegations, before passing the evidence to the police, who will be invited to complete the investigation before handing the case to the CPS.”

    Tim Bonner, director of campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “The RSPCA is in an extremely difficult position as a political campaigning organisation and as a prosecutor. We have long argued it makes it almost impossible for them to make objective decisions on prosecutions.”

    The RSPCA’s only pending prosecution of a hunt was dropped on 18 March due to lack of evidence.

    Will Bryer, master and huntsman of the Cattistock Hunt in Dorset, had been charged with one offence of hunting a fox with hounds.

    The incident was alleged to have taken place on 2 December 2014. A hearing was due to take place at Weymouth Magistrates Court on 20 March.

    However, the RSPCA wrote to Mr Bryer’s solicitor Jamie Foster, stating it would not be pursuing the prosecution as there is no evidence on which they could legitimately continue.

    CA’s figures show that in 2013 — the last year the RSPCA carried out prosecutions of hunts before this case — 79% of the summonses issued by the RSPCA against hunt staff and supporters failed, costing more than £100,000 of tax payers’ money.

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