RSPCA Prosecution Powers


Dogs / Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

RSPCA Could Be Stripped of Prosecution Powers

You would think that the government would be far too preoccupied with Brexit to have the time to waste trying to fix things which ain’t broke!

Sad Dog - Flickr - treegrow

The RSPCA is one of our nation’s most highly regarded institutions. It’s prosecution success rate is currently 98.9% which would suggest that it is prosecuting the right cases. This success rate is superior to that of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). But a Government committee is calling for the RSPCA to be stripped of its powers! Those powers would then be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service. Confused?

The Commons Environment Committee

The Commons environment committee has suggested that there is a “conflict of interest” between the RSPCA’s power to prosecute and its role in investigating cases. The committee has recommended that the charity should continue to investigate cases of cruelty and neglect but then pass these to another body with the power to prosecute them.

The Crown Prosecution Service

So it would be a good idea to take a role away from an organisation which has proved to be extremely successful and hand it over to a public body which is already overstretched? Are we alone in not understanding the logic of this suggestion? The RSPCA prosecutes over 1000 cases every year. Can the CPS cope with this extra work?

It is comforting to hear the committee’s finding were not unanimously supported by its members, three labour MPs and one SDLP MP opposed the call to transfer powers. Their objections were based on the fact that anyone has the right to bring a private prosecution in this country. It would be unreasonable to single out the RSPCA and to prevent them from having that right.

Pet Owners Alienated

Apparently some pet owners have been feeling alienated because the charity appears to be targeting vulnerable or elderly people. RSPCA chief executive Jeremy Cooper rejected the MPs’ criticism. David Bowles the charity’s head of public affairs appeared on breakfast television to defend their work. He pointed out that many people make donations to the charity precisely because they pursue those who abuse animals.

Pointless Move

Surely there is little point is transferring the burden of financing prosecutions to the public purse? Especially when the cases would be prosecuted using largely evidence which has been gathered by the RSPCA.

Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, the Dogs Trust and the PDSA have issued a joint statement explaining that they feared that without the RSPCA “many cases of unacceptable animal abuse would go unprosecuted”.

The parliamentary committee’s recommendations weren’t all completely crazy. They recommended that the maximum custodial sentence for animal welfare crimes should be increased from 51 weeks to five years. Here, here! But then things went pear shaped again. It also called for a ban on the third party sale of dogs and suggested that they should only be available from licensed, regulated breeders or approved rehoming organisations.

This is tantamount to banning private owners from allowing their dogs to become pregnant. It would mean that owners would be forced to care for puppies until they were old enough to be rehomed and then have to hand them over to a charity. That sounds completely unworkable.