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RSPCA should be stripped of prosecution powers, say MPs

Wednesday November 16th 2016

MPs are calling for the RSPCA to be stripped of its powers to prosecute animal welfare cases.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee says there is a "conflict of interest" in the charity's role in bringing forward private prosecutions as well as investigating cases, campaigning and fundraising.

However, the charity has defended its work and says the recommendation by the "small group of MPs" is not supported by the Government, animal welfare groups or vets.

The committee calls on ministers to change the law so that the RSPCA can continue to investigate animal welfare cases but then pass their findings to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or another body with the power to carry out this role.

If there are no statutory alternatives and where a prosecution would further its charitable objectives, the RSPCA could still bring a prosecution in England and Wales, the committee said.

But the key sections of the report calling for a transfer of power are opposed by the three Labour MPs and one SDLP MP, and carried by the five Conservatives and one SNP MP, on the cross-party committee.

The opponents stressed that anyone has a right to bring forward a private prosecution and "to single out the RSPCA as not being able to do this would be invidious, as it has the experience and skills and it furthers its charitable objectives".

RSPCA chief executive Jeremy Cooper has rejected the MPs' criticism.

"We are extremely proud of our near 200 years of experience investigating and prosecuting animal cruelty and our 92% success rate - which is currently a higher percentage than the CPS," he said.

"Our research shows that 89% of the general public back our prosecutions work and they will be confused why a small number of MPs would suggest stopping the RSPCA carrying out a role which we are very good at and which is paid for by public donations rather than out of taxes.

Charities also oppose the select committee's findings.

In a joint statement, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, Blue Cross, Cats Protection, the Dogs Trust, and the PDSA said: "We would strongly question whether any other body currently exists that would have the resources to provide a service similar to the RSPCA's considerable expertise, experience and credibility in this area. We would further fear that without the RSPCA carrying out this vital work, many cases of unacceptable animal abuse would go unprosecuted."

This article was written on behalf of helpucover. helpucover is a trading style of Pinnacle Insurance plc, an insurance company who offers Pet Insurance.

Copyright Press Association 2016