RSPCA should be stripped of prosecution powers, say MPs – BBC News
The RSPCA should be stripped of its powers to routinely prosecute animal welfare cases, according to MPs.
The Commons environment committee said there was a “conflict of interest” between the charity’s power to prosecute and its role in investigating suits, campaigning and fundraising.
But the RSPCA defended its work and said the move was not supported by the government or animal welfare groups.
The government says it will consider the committee’s recommendations.
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee called on ministers to change the law concerning the RSPCA’s powers.
Everyone in England and Wales has the right to bring a private prosecution against someone who they believe has committed an offence.
The Committee recommends the RSPCA should continue its work investigating animal welfare cases, but “withdraw from acting as a prosecutor of first resort” and let the Crown Prosecution Service or other statutory bodies carry out this role.
If there were no statutory alternatives – and where a private prosecution would further its charitable purposes – the RSPCA could still be allowed to bring a lawsuit, said the committee.
What prosecution powers does the RSPCA have?
The RSPCA exerts its right to act as private attorney under the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985.
The charity has no legal enforcement powers or authority in its own right, so all prosecutions are brought via independent attorneys acting for the RSPCA.
The director of public prosecutions does have the right to intervene in any criminal proceedings if she feels that proceedings are unjustified.
Other charities have brought prosecutions in cases where the police or CPS haven’t taken action.
The committee report also highlighted a dramatic rise in numbers of imported puppies from eastern Europe.
Puppies can be imported for commercial intents or moved as pets under the EU Pet Travel Scheme( PETS ).
Between the introduction of PETS in 2011 and 2015, research reports points to a 2,055% increase in the number of dogs entering the UK from Romania. There was an 850% increase from Lithuania and a 761% rise from Hungary in the same period.
The committee recommended the government increase spot checks at entry points into the UK and that the age at which puppies can be brought in to the UK should be increased from 15 weeks to six months in order to reduce their commercial value to smugglers.
Complaints of cruelty investigated by the RSPCA rose from 153,770 in 2013 to 159,831 in 2014 in England and Wales In 2014, this led to 1,132 prosecutions The charity’s prosecution success rate is 98.9%, according to 2014 RSPCA figures