Heythrop_archive_Julian_BarnfieldThe Countryside Alliance welcomes the arrival of the long-awaited report into the RSPCA’s prosecution strategy by Stephen Wooler, former CPS chief inspector. The report was commissioned in December 2013. Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance said: “Stephen Wooler’s report vindicates our position and accepts nearly every concern that we raised in relation to RSPCA prosecutions. 

“Unfortunately, however, the review was sabotaged from the start by the RSPCA’s refusal to consider whether it should be prosecuting at all. That is the fundamental question which was raised in Parliament and to which the then Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, was referring when he suggested that the RSPCA carry out this independent review.

“Of course the RSPCA can improve the way it prosecutes but the real question is whether it should prosecute at all. Relying on private prosecutions to deliver animal welfare laws is a 19th century solution to a 21st century problem.

“There is also a regrettable section on hunts and the Hunting Act which makes a series of ridiculous claims which serve only to highlight the ignorance of the author in this field and the influence anti-hunting organisations brought to bear on the process. We talked to Mr Wooler at length without discussing the activities of hunts which would seem to be well beyond the scope of his review (and expertise). We did however raise in some detail the comparison between the RSPCA and charities such as the NSPCC and RSPB which were regular private prosecutors, but which have now concluded that working with the police and CPS is both more effective and efficient. The report does not even address that comparison, nor does in properly consider how the SSPCA works with state prosecutors in Scotland.

“We remain convinced that it would be better for both animals and people if the RSPCA left prosecution to the CPS. If however it is determined to continue to act as a campaigning organisation, investigator and prosecutor there must be clarity about its status and role.
“We would therefore endorse Mr Wooler’s recommendation that RSPCA prosecutors operate within a statutory framework which would include proper accountability and openness.”

For more information, contact Countryside Alliance head of media Charlotte Cooper on 0207 8409220 and 07500 834163 or email [email protected]

Notes for journalists
• Countryside Alliance figures show that in 2013 79% of the summonses issued by the RSPCA against hunt staff and supporters failed.

• These failed summonses cost the tax payer more than £100,000, which was paid from central funds rather than by the RSPCA.