Judge Pattinson said: “It is not for me to express an opinion...” before swiftly doing so. “But I do find it to be a quite staggering figure.” He also suggested that “members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed”. (Link here)
Some (pro hunting, I believe) MPs are now seeking a review by the Charity Commission as to whether charity rules were broken by the RSPCA. (Link here) Other aspects of the story can be found here, here and here.
For me it all comes down to priorities: both within the RSPCA and the criminal justice system (CPS & Police). Who is it that finally decides where scarce resources should be spent, and then who is responsible for the consequences…? (For your information, the RSPCA had an annual income of £116m for the year ending in 2011)
It is no surprise that this story is being hotly debated on many blogs. On the one hand the law was being broken and therefore the CPS should have pursued a prosecution. On the other hand, the CPS (and the police) have limited resources and probably prioritise crimes against people more than crimes against animals. It is probably far more complex than that of course. But in the space left by the decision not to mount a public prosecution, the RSPCA stepped into bring a private prosecution instead. Were they right to do so?
It will be interesting to see what now happens. In my experience the pro-animal campaigners are a very tenacious bunch and I would imagine complaints about the District Judge have already been submitted, alongside complaints about the RSPCA being submitted by a cross party group of MPs…
And then in amongst all this, where does the PCC sit? This issue was briefly raised during the election campaign when one candidate said that she would be asking her Chief Constable not to spend resources on policing badger culls as that would not be a priority if she were elected. But is that a strategic matter or an operational one? Is this a matter of professional judgement or political calculation? Ethics or accountancy?
I watch with interest!