British RSPCA defends prosecutions policy

Karl McCartney
Karl McCartney

The British RSPCA has defended its prosecutions policy against criticisms by the Conservative MP for Lincolon, Karl McCartney.

McCartney, in a blog, said that he recognised the valuable contribution to animal welfare made by the RSPCA in the past.

“With that being said, the RSPCA is a prosecutor which in 2012 secured 3000 convictions at a cost of £8.7 million. This is more than double the number of prosecutions it brought in 2008 when it prosecuted 1252 defendants for cruelty to animals, compared with the Crown Prosecution Service’s 240.

“The role of the RSPCA in this regard has been recently under close scrutiny and its recent sanctioning of a £300,000 private prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt brought the organisation to the attention of the Charity Commission for potentially breaching a ‘duty of prudence’ which governs its actions.

“The fact that this hunt and its members were fined £6800 really puts this total expenditure in perspective and one is poised to ask whether the hundreds of thousands of pounds of expenditure (originally donated to the RSPCA by members of the public) has been squandered unnecessarily on legal fees? How many domestic animals could have been protected and rescued with such a sum of money?

“The RSPCA prosecutes when pretty much every other admirable charity, whether they deal with animal or human welfare, such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, relies entirely on the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police to deal with problem areas, issues and individual cases.”

McCartney said the RSPCA had conducted sterling work since its foundation in 1824.

“However I believe it has lost sight of its reason for existence in recent years. That is why many people such as myself who previously fulfilled a very active role in supporting the RSPCA and its core values, now no longer do.

“I for one would hope that in the future the main role of the RSPCA returns to that which the vast majority of its supporters would wish it to fulfil.”

The RSPCA said in a statement that it was nonsense to say that it squandered funds on prosecutions which could have been spent on protecting and rescuing animals.

“Prosecutions are one of the most effective ways of doing exactly this.

“Every legal case is the result of the alleged suffering of animals. Many are victims of terrible neglect and/or cruelty and can only be removed from places of danger and protected from further harm through legal means.”

Cases, it said, brought people who abused animals to justice and deterred others from committing similar offences.

“Upholding the law is not a political act – behind each prosecution there is an animal’s story to be told. The RSPCA is simply upholding the law. Without it there would often not be much we could do to stop the appalling suffering we see.

“If the RSPCA did not deal with investigating allegations relating to cruelty to animals and prosecuting offenders, it is unlikely that any other agency could or would undertake this important work. Like many charities, we fill a gap which other organisations do not have the resources to pursue.”

The charity cited what it described as several inaccuracies in the blog. It said McCartney quoted 2012 figures, which have not yet been published.

It said the prosecution costs listed for 2011 in the charity’s Trustees Report, which he quoted, included the welfare costs of boarding and providing veterinary care for the animals taken into RSPCA care, which came to nearly £4 million in 2011.

“The number of convictions have not doubled since 2008. In 2011 there were 3114 and in 2008 they were 2574. We are not quite sure which prosecution figures from 2008 Karl is referring to.”

“Following Simon Hart’s complaint to the Charity Commission about the cost of Heythrop Hunt what the Commission actually said was: ‘Decisions to undertake prosecutions are properly for trustees to make, and are not normally matters of regulatory concern for the Commission. We are not investigating the RSPCA’.”


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