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RSPCA and Countryside Alliance clash over prosecution of hunts

By WMNPBowern  |  Posted: January 03, 2014


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The RSPCA and the Countryside Alliance have clashed bitterly over the animal welfare charity’s policy of pursuing prosecutions for illegal hunting.

An investigation published by The Times reportedly found only four out of five RSPCA prosecutions for alleged illegal hunting were successful. As a result taxpayers had to foot legal bills for those that failed totalling at least £70,000, because defence costs in private prosecutions can be claimed against the public purse.

The findings led to the Alliance, which is fighting to overturn the hunt ban, to allege that the RSPCA was guilty of an abuse of the courts for mounting politically motivated legal cases. Tim Bonner, the Alliance’s director of campaigns said: "People will simply not understand why the taxpayer should foot the bill for failed RSPCA prosecutions, especially when they seem to be politically motivated.

“We believe the Government needs to look urgently at the law to ensure private prosecutors think twice before bringing spurious prosecutions.”

Specialist country sports lawyer Jamie Foster of Taunton-based Clarke Willmot represented one of the few defendants who pleaded guilty to illegal hunting. Huntsman David Parker of the Seavington in Somerset admitted blowing his hunting horn, encouraging the hounds to pursue a fox, which later escaped.

He was fined £500 with £500 costs despite the RSPCA requesting their full costs of close to £5,000 at the end of the case last September.

Mr Foster said of the case that it would have been more appropriate for the RSPCA to issue a caution, given no animal was harmed. “This was another example of a campaigning charity prioritising its own political interests in criminal proceedings, which in my view is inexcusable,” he said.

The RSPCA hit back yesterday with a strongly-worded denial that it was acting in any way improperly in taking hunts to court. Ray Goodfellow, the charity’s chief legal officer, said: “The figures cited by the Countryside Alliance are disingenuous. It is a gross distortion to compare a percentage calculated on the number of summonses with a percentage calculated on the number of individual defendants successfully convicted.

“Obviously I reject the claim that our prosecutions are politically motivated. The RSPCA follows the principles laid down by the CPS Code for Crown Prosecutors. The Countryside Alliance should engage with the independent review of RSPCA prosecutions if they have concerns about the manner in which the RSPCA brings private prosecutions.”

Last year, in response to concerns, the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, wrote to the RSPCA suggesting it appoint a barrister to conduct a review of its policies. Last month Stephen Wooler, a former chief inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, was appointed to carry out the review. The RSPCA was criticised for spending more than £320,000 in 2012 pursuing a successful prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt, where David Cameron was a member.

According to The Times unsuccessful prosecutions pursued by the RSPCA included one against an 18-year-old student who had to sit her A levels under threat of a court conviction and two against a man, aged 79, who was under threat of action for a year before the case was dropped.

It is further alleged that some of those hunts targeted had Conservative connections while Gavin Grant, the RSPCA's chief executive is a Lib Dem supporter. The RSPCA deny Mr Grant played any part in the prosecution decisions.

The RSPCA said:"The Countryside Alliance is an increasingly desperate organisation and its campaign to bring back bloodsports is clearly failing.

"The vast majority of people in this country (80% of both rural and urban inhabitants) have made it clear in a new poll that they are opposed to the return of the cruel and vicious practice of hunting foxes with dogs.

"The Countryside Alliance's response to this is to resort to a new low of smear campaigns and inaccuracies."

Last week Barney White-Spunner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance described the RSPCA as "sinister and nasty."

He said: "It's a sad story. It's got plenty of money but its membership has plummeted. A once great British institution has been turned from an animal welfare organisation into one concerned with animal rights. That's sad.

"Where does their moral authority come from," he asked in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. "They have no statutory authority yet when their inspectors turn up in uniform, its as a private organisation. There's something sinister and nasty about it. Why should they, just because they are rich, tell us how to behave towards animals?"

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  • NBGooner  |  October 08 2014, 8:54AM

    Sir, Stephen Wooler could not find any political motive to the hunt prosecution of the Heythrop in 2012. Please find the link to POWA (Protect our wild animals) at the Labour party conference below, this is the group who supplied the footage for the prosecution. In addition I wrote to Stephen Wooler my self-informing him of the one million pound donation made from PAL to the Labour party. I seriously would have hoped a former chief inspector of the crown prosecution service would have had the ability to find out Richard Ryder an RSPCA council member also once a director of PAL. http://tinyurl.com/pgl7ucb

  • Ludmilla  |  May 22 2014, 4:25PM

    Its surprising that the Countryside Alliance feel that they have the moral or legal right to damn the RSPCA when they can't take any perceived criticism of their members or circle even in a storyline on a radio 4 drama http://tinyurl.com/njd3aak , can you imagine if every time a character who claimed to be an animal lover on TV did something wrong we complained to the Beeb - are we living in a communist backdrop or something? The sensible storyline actually warned people to be alert when letting dogs near livestock which is actually better for farmers and dog walkers, animals have been shot when venturing near livestock so isn't prevention better than 'cure' http://tinyurl.com/qgext67 http://tinyurl.com/ntmko48 http://tinyurl.com/nmr93ug The only thing I agree with the CA on, though perhaps not with the same reasons (blocking prosecutions) is that the monetary outpouring is too much, because of the lack of police action and the CA themselves trying to stop monitoring fox hunts. The regulars on here will no doubt have seen the 'expert' country sports advocates complain about monitoring and saying that the police are wasting their time and public money in pursuing prosecutions, also far from being politically motivated on Gavin Grant's part - pro hunt judges have not taken the criminal activity seriously enough it could be argued? If only people would obey the law it would not be necessary for sabs to put their necks on the line or the RSPCA their good reputation after the onslaught of negative outpourings like this one Where is the credit by the Countryside Alliance for the hard work the RSPCA have put in with the labelling campaign? To acknowledge where the meat has come from - horsemeat that while the animal was alive realising it was brutally treated and transported for many miles, Halal slaughter that it not stunned and not really with the expertise that was meant to be used in Mohammed's teachings, cheap imports where few know of the actual conditions or factory farmed misery? Of course despite doing a lot for responsible farmers the blood sports lobby want to discredit them, more subsidies for shooting estates, the badger cull and fox hunting rather than praising the good work of the RSPCA

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  • NBGooner  |  January 06 2014, 12:47PM

    SimonTrucker – Foxes and lambs, Swallowed wholesale the complete **** emanating from Bristol University I see. What Our friend Harris fails to tell you is peer reviewed research shows most farmers cite protection of livestock as a reason for culling foxes and they carry out widespread fox control to PREVENT fox damage. In other words Kill the fox before it does the damage, The best bit, by you claiming livestock losses are low you are actually saying fox control is working as intended. The Rogue fox theory is based on Reaction to a problem, one survey in Wiltshire found only a tiny percentage of farmers thought foxes should be killed only after the damage has been done.

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  • NBGooner  |  January 06 2014, 12:36PM

    Atomix1964 – I said just searching, this is not classified as hunting. Regardless if charges are bought fair enough, if not as suggested, propaganda rubbish a desperate bid to take some if the limelight from the highly successful Boxing day. HAHAHAHA Atomix1964 you're the very first anti to even mention the Burns report to me in god knows how long, I refer to it constantly, why is that? Burns concluded a ban would lead to an increase in other methods to replace those no longer killed with hunting hounds. Burns concluded we should therefore compare the various methods from a welfare perspective, Burns concluded tentatively, Lamping if carried out in the correct conditions by a competent shot was preferable to hunting from a welfare perspective, he was less confident the use of shotguns was preferable to hunting from a welfare perspective, snares were of particular cause for concern. I can concluded only twisted bigoted prejudiced moron would choose to ban hunting before other methods.

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  • simonrtucker  |  January 04 2014, 11:49AM

    Anybody who thinks foxes are the pest of lambs and sheep please read the attached: http://tinyurl.com/lln6gl8 This is the true killer of lambs and sheep, and anything else they can get their badly trained jaws into but the CA, the NFU an d their apologists would rather waste time pursuing an animal that will only take dead or dying lambs - which are only available for a couple of months per year - rather than deal with the real problem.

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  • simonrtucker  |  January 04 2014, 11:36AM

    NBGooner: you consider the RSPCA nasty and vile do you? Interesting: what percentage of fox hounds are destroyed by the hunts every year because they are, at 5 or 6 years of age, too old? The answer is in the ages. Even greyhounds get a chance of retirement whereas the hunts not only have contempt for the law, wildlife, other peoples' property, nature reserves and pets but also for their own hounds.

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  • simonrtucker  |  January 04 2014, 11:32AM

    The simple fact is that the Hunting Act exists and many people have since become criminal in their continued persecution of wildlife but the police and the CPS, aided and abetted by the judiciary and Tory / Lib-Dem politicians, have failed miserably to uphold the law. The only people committed to upholding the law in this regard are the RSPCA, the RSPB and the LACS - which is why I help fund these organisations. The RSPCA is still the ONLY organisation committed to animal welfare with the clout to make a difference in this country. That is why the police use them to deal with domestic animal abuse and why they co-operate on the things that were covered by acts prior to the Hunting Act - when the same people were spreading the same lies about the RSPCA. Bad farmers and breeders, as represented by the Countryside Alliance and the NFU, and bad pet owners want the RSPCA to be emasculated so they can continue their bad practises - because it is cheaper for them. When these two organisations start endorsing the work of the RSPCA it will mean one of two things: either the RSPCA has been crippled and made to toe the landowners line or these two accursed organisations will finally start representing what is best about our countryside instead of being apologists for the worst.

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  • Atomic1964  |  January 03 2014, 8:02PM

    NBGooner - It is legal for TWO hounds to be used for searching and flushing out, not a whole pack. Under the terms of the gamekeepers exemption it is legal for ONE terrrier to be used for flushing from ground and only after certain other criteria have been met - none of which were on the occassion refered to re the York & Ainsty. The CA and it's allies slammed the Burns report when it was published and refused to accept it's findings. You can't now use selected extracts from it to further your argument.

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  • break  |  January 03 2014, 5:58PM

    Illegal is illegal,the police should be the ones carrying out the prosecutions,seeing as though someone is breaking the law.Or maybe I should go out and break the law and start moaning when I'm caught.Wether the law is right or wrong doesn't give the right to ignore it,do what us plebs have to do and wait for parliament to change it.

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  • NBGooner  |  January 03 2014, 12:46PM

    Fox_In_winter - Spin by the CA? And no mention of the deciectful nasty underhand way these vile organizations obtained a ban in the first place? TUT TUT let me enlighten you, The ban was achieved with a 1 million pound donation to the Labour party by PAL helped with an alleged £600,000 loan from IFAW. Additional funding of Labour Mps was made in their constituencies by the League against cruel sports. Scientific evidence supplied to the Burns inquiry by the RSPCA had the original academic who conducted the research writing to the inquiry stating "there is an on-going problem with AR groups twisting my data to suit their own ends". Since 1997 these organizations waged a bitter war against the Countryside Alliance and were less than economical with the truth on many occasions, In an advertisement concerning stag hunting, the ASA upheld a complaint that the advertisement gave the impression that stags are caught and killed by hounds. In fact, stags are brought to bay, (a defensive posture,) and shot with a licensed firearm or humane killer, a fact which the advertisement concealed. Complaint upheld: The ASA determined that the RSPCA's claim that "Independent polls have consistently shown that most people in this country agree with us" was not true. Complaints upheld: The ASA determined that the IFAW implied a 30-year-old practice was current; that 'full of soil' was an exaggeration; that submitted evidence was insufficient. Complaints upheld: The ASA determined that LACS was misleading and inaccurate in their use of a quote from the Burns Inquiry. Complaints upheld: The ASA determined that LACS was misleading and inaccurate in a pamphlet about hare hunting and coursing, including using no-longer-accurate data from 1951 when current information was easily available. The RSPCA advertisements claimed that foxes are not an agricultural pest problem, citing the Ministry of Agriculture's position as "the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food estimates the number of lambs taken by foxes to be not significant." The Countryside Alliance submitted to the ASA an actual text of the Ministry's position, which reads "The Ministry does not consider foxes to be a significant factor in lamb mortality nationally, but it should be stressed that this is against a background of widespread fox control by farmers." The ASA asked the RSPCA "to ensure that they did not select quotations in a way that could mislead in future advertisements."

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