Further to our recent article about Britain's least charitable charity, the RSPCA, we are pleased to find we are not alone. Here's a piece from Issue 1332 of Private Eye ...
What beastly behaviour
The RSPCA took some flak after its recent hugely expensive prosecution of the Heythrop hunt. Yet the kerfuffle about whether the charity was pursuing some sort of class war agenda distracted attention from the fact that it often sprays its supporters’ money about on private prosecutions that seem to be in neither animals’ nor people’s interest.
Of particular concern are its prosecutions of elderly and vulnerable people. In 2011, a 71-year-old pensioner from Manchester, Pauline Spoor, was prosecuted for cruelty to her pet dog, Dexter. He had arthritis, like her, and the RSPCA had him put down. She was convicted and tagged for three months. The RSPCA defended its decision to prosecute an elderly woman, saying it was “right and proper”.
Last year another pensioner, Georgina Langley from West Hougham in Kent, had her cats, cockerels and rescue dog taken away by the RSPCA. She was then charged with 13 charges of neglect (11 of which were withdrawn at the last moment, as is often the case). She pleaded guilty to two minor charges of not getting veterinary care quickly enough. The RSPCA put down five of her cats but an independent post-mortem, carried out on two of the cats by the Royal Veterinary College, found both were healthy. The RSPCA pushed for costs of £28,000 against Langley. The magistrate refused to order costs or a fine against her, returned a number of her animals and gave her a conditional discharge.
In 2007, the owner of an animal sanctuary in Sunderland, Clifford Spedding, who had been prosecuted by the RSPCA for cruelty offences, had his suspended jail sentence lifted and his banning order for keeping animals rescinded on appeal. Allowing the appeal, Judge Peter Armstrong said: “The appellant began to suffer from depression and was simply unable to cope with a large number of animals and birds that had been dumped upon him.” He praised the work Mr Spedding had done over many years to protect animals. Lawyers the Eye has spoken to cite numerous similar cases.
The RSPCA is thought to be the most prolific private prosecutor in the country – certainly no other charity prosecutes anywhere near as many cases. Its sister charity in Scotland, the Scottish SPCA, does not carry out private prosecutions, sending cases it has investigated to the Procurator Fiscal (the Scottish equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service) instead. The same is true of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which used to prosecute but stopped in 1992.
The RSPCA has continued to increase the number of private prosecutions since 2006, when the Labour government passed the Animal Welfare Act. Last year it secured convictions in more than 3,000 “cruelty” cases, at a cost of £8.7m.
Barrister Jonathan Rich, who has defended numerous people in RSPCA cases, describes the charity’s “Inspectorate” as “an officious, sub-standard, pretend police force”. It’s hard to disagree. RSPCA officers wear uniforms which are almost indistinguishable from police garb, leading to confusion about their powers when they doorstep people (in fact they have none).
The CPS often chooses not to prosecute elderly defendants or those with mental health conditions or other disabilities. The RSPCA takes a different view: it sends out press releases naming elderly and disabled defendants – who are then sometimes targeted by animal rights activists.
An e-petition asking the government to inquire into the RSPCA’s “vexatious prosecutions” has gathered more than 6,600 signatures in just a couple of weeks. Could 2013 be the year the RSPCA stops being cruel to human beings?
The GOS says: Yeah, you wish. Once these jobsworths have tasted a little power they're hardly going to give it up, are they? Especially when they can bleat self-righteously “we're only doing it for the sake of the poor dumb animals”.
There's only one way they're going to be persuaded to stop, and that's if the Charity Commission can be persuaded to threaten to remove their charitable status. And that's not going to happen because the Charity Commission are a bunch of power-hungry jobsworths themselves. These people stick together, you know.
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