The Countryside Alliance has welcomed confirmation that the CPS will prosecute all animal welfare cases in the publication of the Government’s response to the Environment Food & Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA Committee) select committee report: “Animal Welfare in England: Domestic pets”
The report was published on 16 November 2016 and called for the RSPCA to refrain from acting as the prosecutor of first resort with regard to Animal Welfare cases under the 2006 Animal Welfare Act. Last November’s committee report also recommended that the Government look at amending current legislation to make the RSPCA a specialist reporting authority.
During the EFRA Committee hearings the RSPCA made the case that if they did not prosecute animal welfare cases then cases of animal cruelty would go unpunished. The RSPCA questioned whether the CPS had the resources to be the prosecutor of first resort. The Countryside Alliance rejected the RSPCA’s claim, with its Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, stating, “The RSPCA’s prosecutions budget is a fraction of the total CPS budget.” The Countryside Alliance agreed with the EFRA Committee recommendation (made to the RSPCA) that they should refrain from acting as the prosecutor of first resort, making the point that the “conflict of interest is too obvious and too great.”
Today (7 February 2017) the Government rejected the RSPCA’s claim that the CPS have insufficient resources to carry out prosecutions. The Government report states:
“The CPS continues to play an active role in wildlife protection and the prosecution of animal welfare cases referred by the Police… As suggested in paragraph 166, were the CPS to take on all RSPCA cases, further consideration would need to be given to resource. Resources alone however, are never a bar to prosecution.
“If a case passes the two stage test for prosecution used by the CPS (i.e.is there sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and, if so, is a prosecution is needed in the public interest) a prosecution will take place.”
Responding to the Government’s statement, Alliance Chief Executive, Tim Bonner, said:
“We welcome confirmation from the Government that the CPS will always bring prosecutions with regard to animal welfare cases, if there is sufficient evidence and, if so, a prosecution is needed in the public interest.
“The Government’s response to the EFRA Committee report removes the last excuse for the RSPCA to continue operating as the prosecutor of first resort. The Alliance has always supported the right of private prosecutors to challenge decisions made by the CPS, but the time has to come for the RSPCA to drop its outdated pseudo-statutory prosecuting role.
“We hope that the RSPCA will respond positively to the EFRA Committee recommendation and stop acting as the prosecutor of first resort.”
The Government did not accept the EFRA Committee’s recommendation that it consider whether the RSPCA should become a “Specialist Reporting Authority.”