October 12, 2014
A defiant RSPCA said it was business as usual as it began another prosecution of a West hunt for breaking the hunt ban, just days after being told to review the way it mounts prosecutions.
The under-fire charity issued court proceedings against William Bryer, the huntsman with the Cattistock Hunt, the premier hunt in Dorset, ordering him to appear before magistrates in a fortnight’s time.
He is accused of one offence of breaching the 2004 hunt ban on March 11 this year and has been told to appear at Weymouth Magistrates Court on October 27.
The evidence against Mr Bryer is not yet known but it is likely to have come from hunt monitors. The activities of the Cattistock are often filmed by monitors from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, who are based in the area.
The prosecution is the first to have begun since the publication of the Wooler Report earlier this month into the way the RSPCA mounts what are effectively private prosecutions. The vast majority of the charity’s court actions are against individuals for acts of animal cruelty, but much of the report focused on the increasing role of the RSPCA in prosecuting allegations of illegal hunting by organised hunt packs.
Stephen Wooler, the former chief inspector of the CPS, was asked to review the RSPCA’s prosecution policy after the controversy following the charity spending £330,000 securing convictions of the Heythrop Hunt for breaching the hunt ban in Gloucestershire.
The Wooler report backed the Society’s decision to prosecute but questioned how much it was paying for legal advice to mount prosecutions of hunts, when the maximum penalties are so minor.
Wooler found the RSPCA was paying way more than the ‘going rate’ for prosecution barristers and legal advice for an offence as relatively minor as breaking the hunt ban. He found that, in total, the charity was spending £22.5 million a year prosecuting every kind of animal cruelty case, including hunting allegations.
The Wooler Report did, however, suggest the society channelled its energy into campaigning for a tightening up of the Hunting Act to make prosecuting it easier – and cheaper.
But last night, after announcing the Cattistock prosecution, the RSPCA said it would continue to prosecute hunts, at least until it had decided a strategy on hunt prosecutions with the state agencies – the Crown Prosecution Service and police chiefs.
“In accordance with the recommendations of the Wooler report into RSPCA prosecutions, we will develop a policy relating to our involvement in hunting prosecutions and will discuss this with the CPS and ACPO,” said a spokeswoman for the RSPCA.
“Until these discussions have concluded, our approach remains unaltered and we will examine each case on its merits and in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors,” she added.
The Countryside Alliance, who started the campaign against the RSPCA mounting private prosecutions after it began bringing huntsmen to court, pointed out that other similar charities like the NSPCC and the RSPB do not mount their own prosecutions of child abuse or bird slaughter.
“Charities have a duty to spend donations prudently, but the RSPCA’s prosecution operation is profligate,” said Alliance spokesman Tim Bonner. “It would be far better if the RSPCA left prosecution to the CPS, like every other charity.”
North West Hunt Saboteurs Association
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