Coffee House

As the most persistent private prosecutor, the RSPCA has questions to answer

29 January 2013

9:28 AM

29 January 2013

9:28 AM

Parliament debating how laws are prosecuted is not a rare event, unless that is, MPs are pondering the role of the country’s most persistent private prosecutor. Alongside its role as a prosecutor, the RSPCA also campaigns for new legislation and changes to the existing laws it is prosecuting under what seems like an increasingly radical agenda. That is why I have sponsored a debate today about their role as a prosecutor to which the Attorney General will respond.

This debate is not about the 95 per cent of the RSPCA’s work directly protecting animals which we all support and applaud, indeed I was a member of the RSPCA for many years. What I want my colleagues to consider carefully is how the Society both investigates and prosecutes criminal cases without the separation between those roles, which has become a fundamental principle of the criminal law in England and Wales since the formation of the Crown Prosecution Service.

I also want them to consider how anybody with a political and commercial agenda can properly apply (as the RSPCA claims it does) the code for crown prosecutors including the evidential and public interest tests.


The case that started a public discussion of the RSPCA’s direction and position as a prosecutor was a strange one to grab the public consciousness. The charity’s obsessive, and excessively expensive, pursuit of certain high profile cases has been the catalyst for a much wider debate.

RSPCA Chief Executive Gavin Grant has been unrepentant, referring to defendants’ accents and calling for prison sentences of up to five years for what are currently non-recordable offences. He claimed ‘overwhelming public support’ for the RSPCA’s increasingly radical animal rights agenda and when the criticism continued, he resorted to the staple PR line of claiming that support was flooding in and donations were on the rise.

Whilst all this was being played out, however, polling company YouGov was tracking the public’s perception of the RSPCA and the results of the research were clear cut. Public attitudes towards the RSPCA have fallen dramatically on every measurement. As YouGov put it the ‘figures show that as the charity gained attention from the hunt judgment and subsequent media coverage, its reputation declined in almost equal measures’. And YouGov concluded: ‘Only time will tell if all publicity is good publicity for the RSPCA. However, the negative stories it has generated over the past month in the aftermath of Heythrop suggests that it isn’t.’

So perhaps my colleagues are unnecessarily concerned about how the public will react to scrutiny of the RSPCA. If the response to the Heythrop case is anything to go by, the public think the RSPCA has as many questions to answer as I do.

Simon Hart is Conservative MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

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Show comments
  • Fran Carpenter

    Good grief, will Mr Hart never cease his witterings about fox hunting and the rights of those who want to do it? Will he never understand that it is just not acceptable to want to do that?! How can he want to?? Mr Hart, most people will never agree with you. Get used to it, fox hunting is not going to happen legally again, the RSPCA and others WILL continue to prosecute those who persist in this cruel and ugly activity. Oh, and by the way, the badger cull will not go ahead either! And, as I said to you privately, that’s from a Conservative activist! Do not let the Party down with your cruel ways, sir!

    • Fran Carpenter

      All power to you, RSPCA, my money to you will now increase.

  • alabenn

    Almost the whole corporate charity business has been taken over by Labour supporting non entities who could not run a raffle, when the leader of a charity designates the job as a Chief Executive Officer you know that charity is the last thing that will be driving their agenda.

    The number one priority becomes fundraising to finance the massive “executive” that oversees the ever diminishing pool of volunteers and workers.

    Anyone donating to these massive scams is not helping anyone but the political shysters running the show.

  • In2minds

    The RSPCA, what’s it’s position on halal?

  • Noa

    At what point in time did animal charity which had the goodwill of the nation become an instrument of state policy and an auxiliary uniformed police force?

    The irony is, that whilst its Chief Executive enjoys the expected six figure salary and expensive political show trials are mis-funded with charitable donations, local RSPCA animal homes are closing because of a lack of funds.

    For those who may be ‘visited on business’ by this body’s uniformed representatives an arms length relationship is advised;-

    Those wishing to investigate their charitable behaviour may wish to consider:

  • Colin

    “95 per cent of the RSPCA’s work directly protecting animals which we all support and applaud”

    What’s your evidence for any of this? Might have been true 40 years ago, probably not now.

  • Fergus Pickering

    I don’t give them money. There are plenty of Animal charities you can give to instead. I suggest you do so.

  • Daniel Maris

    The RSPCA have as recognised statutory role in prosecutions. If they weren’t prosecuting the police would have to – at a great cost to the public purse.

    In fact if you ever wanted an example of the Big Society in action – this is it.

    There is a debate to be had about whether charities like RSPCA and NSPCC or indeed private clubs like ACPO should be given statutory roles. Personally I don’t like the idea. But don’t pretend they are some out of control interfering busy bodies, when statute gives them the role.

    • Colonel Mustard

      But we don’t have to like it, or remain silent when buffoons champion it.

  • Snorter

    Exactly what ‘increasingly radical animal rights agenda’ are you referring to? If you’re getting all hot under the collar about the RSPCA having issues with factory farms, circuses, rodeos, zoos, seaquariums, tanneries, vivisection, or your absolutely absurdly middle-class foppish fox hunting, then good on them – they’re only protecting animals. Isn’t that what they’re supposed to do?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Nothing middle-class or foppish about fox hunting.

      • Snorter

        Oh come on Colonel Mustard, while it might have been posh once, are you trying to tell me that fox hunting isn’t now almost exclusively the preserve of clamoring social climbing yuppies?

        • Colonel Mustard

          Actually I was trying to tell you that if you actually participated in a fox hunt, especially up north, you would find many from both ends of the oddly perpetuated British class system. In my experience very few yuppies have either the stamina or riding skills for proper fox hunting. They might be able to climb the social ladder but not many can jump hedges, gates or ditches on a horse, although there is usually a tail of easy riding laggards. I think your comment applies more to game shoots.

  • dalai guevara

    The RSPCA are way ahead of the times. They have exposed that it takes in the region of £330,000 to ensure the upholding of one simple piece of undisputed legislation. Now, do we not need to engage in a rethink?

    Why is every section of society expected to endure cuts, whilst the legal profession escape unscathed?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Undisputed legislation? Hmm.

      • dalai guevara

        Change the law or hold the horses (and dogs).

        • Colonel Mustard

          But ‘undisputed’ means something different to the rule of law. There have been calls for (and promises of) repeal – so not ‘undisputed’. I think you mean ‘de facto’ or something similar. Else one might misapprehend that prevalent tendency of the leftish to presume to speak for everyone.

          • dalai guevara

            Ok, I was perhaps being controversial, nothing new surely?
            It surely is undisputed that the law should apply. For those who think otherwise (sometimes people just do) – rest assured, their actions are being monitored by society, irrespective of cost. When was a cost-saving ever a valid argument for not applying the law?

            Simplifiy process if it is too costly, don’t jeopardise the outcome by adding cost constraints. That remains my point, the lefty claptrap line is irrelevant here.

            • Colonel Mustard

              “lefty claptrap line” – you said it.

  • Alan Douglas

    It is as bad using hate-language against “toffs” as it is against “plebs”. Somehow though, this point is never taken up.

    Alan Douglas (absoluely NOT a toff)

  • Colonel Mustard

    Mr Grant is rather typical of a new shouty breed of Quangocrat and Fake Charity Grandee whose role is more Commissar than CEO. They seem to be churned out of the same indoctrination camp, as though to a common purpose, to articulate similarly outspoken and strident views on imprisoning those who do not conform to their world view. Single minded zealots with too much funding and publicity who are undoubtedly bad for democracy.

    Is there a recruitment agency that specialises in moving these over-promoted non-entities around? They seem to pop up everywhere, even when times is ‘ard. Nice work if you can get it I suppose.

  • Jack Wibberley

    Surely the disgrace is that instances of cruelty to animals are not prosecuted by the CPS but that irt is left to the charity to expend its funds, largely raised by donations, in the prosecutions it brings.

  • auth0r

    Well my wife cancelled her monthly contribution after the last case. I suspect offers will too

    • ButcombeMan

      Likewise. £120 a year they now do not get.

  • SirMontyThreepwood

    “RSPCA Chief Executive Gavin Grant has been unrepentant, referring to defendants’ accents ,”

    Aha. Of course; the accents of the supposed criminals are a most pertinent clue to their guilt in the view of Mr Grant. No doubt the increased donations from fans of Mr Grant’s war on ‘toffs’ come from the army of scum who populate the comment pages of rags like the Independent. For them, anyone who was not dragged up on a south Manchester council estate is a beast who must be punished.

    There are many things that the RSPCA must do to protect animals from abominable treatment, but pursuing ‘toff’s’ is not one of them. Their outrageous prosecutions do not stop there though. A year or two ago, they charged a family with cruelty over the fact that they had not sought treatment for some condition suffered by the family dog. As well as prosecuting the parents, they also charged and prosecuted a sixteen year old child in the family on the grounds that they ought to have sought treatment.

    Then there have been the court cases over family legacies when the RSPCA spent fortunes fighting family members who had been disinherited by senile parents. There was the case of the aged farmer who disinherited his daughter who had lived at and worked the farm throughout her life for pocket money. The will left all the assets to the RSPCA, leaving her not only jobless and without a penny. Instead of realising that the will was a travesty, they pursued the matter through the courts and ultimately to the court of appeal to get their hands on the money.

    The RSPCA long ago lost its way. It is a disgraceful organisation and it should disband itself at once to be replaced by an animal charity with decent values.

    • HooksLaw

      The animal the RSPCA is trying to protect is vermin – appropriately enough.

      I guess if the people who hunt rats wore red coats and blew horns and made a day out of it then the RSPCA would be prosecuting them.

      • SirMontyThreepwood

        Tally Hooooo!!! Rat, rat, rat. Tally Hoooo!!

      • Colonel Mustard

        Now there’s an idea. Especially if the vermin rats are the two legged, red variety that regularly skulk squeaking round the skirting boards here. What, what?

        There is no finer sound
        to stir the English blood
        than the hunting horn
        and the baying hound.

        • telemaque

          Yes Nico
          Your verse typifies the revanchist clique which aims to rule this blog and bully the reasonable into submission

          • Noa

            Revanchist? So you imply an otiose claim to ownership of the Wall by you and your Stalinist brethren? And that those who disagree with your statist viewpoint are trying to reclaim lost territory?
            You and your ilk may post here but you have no more or less right to do so than anyone else. The CH is best considered as Allemansrätten rather than a part of the Soviet bloc. Unless you’ve successfully filed your claim with Comrade Fraser, which I doubt.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Leaving aside the puzzling form of address you insist on (I am not a Greek colonel) I cannot imagine you submitting to anything. You seem to be doing very well as a revanchist clique by yourself, posting in almost every thread, usually by tagging repetitive pro-socialist inanities to the top post with the intention of re-claiming what you perceive as lost socialist territory. If there were a definition of attempting to “rule this blog” then certainly that approach would qualify.

            You also do a nice line in targeting and stalking individuals who represent the most robust dissent from your tediously predictable orthodoxy, since you are most often tagging the comments of others rather than writing your own. So, please, less of the “reasonable” from the pot accusing the kettle, thank you. Especially as your “reasonable” includes admiration for Stalin, the view that the mass execution of an officer class is desirable to progress socialist ideals and that “jumped up charges” against a legitimate political party are something to be encouraged.

            I have no desire or intention to “rule this blog” but I must say it is always blessed by your absence and the absence of your completely bogus “holier than thou” boasts.

  • toco10

    For as long as Gavin Grant the politically motivated disgrace of a so called charity worker remains at the RSPCA I am unable to support this charity and will concentrate on alternative causes which do not exist for the glorification of their CEOs.

    • telemaque

      Does this help?

      Grant, a lifelong Liberal Democrat who was involved in Nick Clegg’s campaign to become party leader, says the financial situation is his main priority. He pledges to protect front-line animal welfare staff from job losses but can’t give the same guarantee for back-office staff.