Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Self Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Other Experiencing
Difficulties with the RSPCA
Newly Received RSPCA Prosecution and Conviction
Figures, Obtained via Mr Charles Hendry MP, reveal that:
(a) the number of Defendants who appeal Magistrates'
convictions is more than 26 times greater in RSPCA prosecutions
than those progressed by the CPS; and
(b) the number of subsequent successful appeals
at Crown Court is well over two times greater in RSPCA
prosecutions than those progressed by the CPS.
These figures cause great concern, and their
implications, in terms of financial costs, waste of human resources,
court time and human misery, are appalling. It is a great pity
that the RSPCA refused to make these figures public years ago
so that the position could have been corrected.
Each case over and above the CPS norm absorbs
court time and resources that are at a premium. It ties up members
of the legal profession and expert witnesses, both defence and
prosecution, all of whom have to be paid for, ultimately from
public funds, whether via the legal aid budget, wasted RSPCA donations,
awards from central funds or those few individuals who go so far
as to sell their houses and everything they own to fund their
A comparison of conviction and acquittal figures
in RSPCA and CPS prosecutions
(See Sheet entitled "Source of Figures"
for the sources of figures etc)
Magistrates' Court's Conviction and Acquittal
Rates plus Crown Court appeal data
(The otherwise "CPS Norm" shown
in bold and in brackets)
At Magistrates' Courts: RSPCA Cases (CPS
ALL Defendants: Found or pleaded Guilty
96.44% (98.37%) 4.24%
Office Lord Chancellor's Department Crown Prosecution Service:
Pleaded: Guilty Not Guilty
83.94% (90%) 16.06%
Source: The University of Warwick)
77.85% (NR) 22.15% (NR)
***Still searching for relevant data
At Crown Court Appealed Magistrates' Court
(Source: Review of the Criminal Courts of
England and Wales)
(Home Office: Lord Chancellor's Department
Crown Prosecution Service)
54.84% (22%) 45.16% (78%)
Office Lord Chancellor's Department Crown Prosecution Service)
(Source: Review of the Criminal Courts of
England and Wales)
Observations and Question re the above:
(i) The percentages of those who pleaded or
were found guilty in the Magistrates' Courts in RSPCA prosecutions
tend to be similar to the figures in CPS prosecutions.
(i) The percentages of those who pleaded not
guilty at the Magistrates Courts in RSPCA prosecutions who were
found guilty and thence went to appeal is a MASSIVE 26 TIMES
GREATER (upon a percentage basis) than in the case of CPS
1. Given that many of such
defendants were legally represented, why, contrary to the
norm, did so many of their solicitors/barristers advise appealing?
More particularly, do these appeals
(contrary to their assertions regarding their ability) the RSPCA's
evidence is far less "safe" than that in a prosecution
progressed by the CPS? ; or
the manner in which the evidence was obtained did not follow
proper process (ie the Law of Evidence)?; or
was some other abuse of process?; or
the magistrates are too used to the high standards set by the
CPS and assume that an RSPCA prosecution will be to the same professional
the magistrates are not sufficiently robust in their considerations
when abuse of process arguments are made in RSPCA cases: perhaps
because they are accustomed to the higher standards normally provided
them by the CPS?; or
the magistrates, like all members of the public, are influenced
by the vast RSPCA advertising and publicity campaigns?; or
the magistrates are influenced by the RSPCA "writing articles
in the Magistrates' own journals and attending their seminars
and briefing them on their responsibilities" (Quote from
Peter Davis, Director General of the RSPCA 1996)?
(i) The percentage of successful appeals in
RSPCA prosecutions is well over TWICE as large than that
which is achieved in CPS prosecutions.
1. Why are the judgments
made by Magistrates in RSPCA prosecutions so blatantly less safe
than those wherein they judge prosecutions progressed by the CPS?
Is it that:
Crown Court Judges are generally less harsh that the Magistrates?
the CPS are far more diligent in their obtaining and evaluation
of evidence, combining this with due reverence to the proper process
of law?; or
Court Judges pay greater attention to (a) the law; (b) the Police
and Criminal Evidence Act; (c) the Laws of Evidence; or (d) the
required quantum of proof?
(i) Given the highly questionable position evidenced
by the figures above, why has seemingly little been done to investigate
the way and manner in which RSPCA prosecutions are both brought
1. Who is it that (as with
the CPS relative to Police investigations and prosecutions) oversees,
monitors (and possibly reprimands) the RSPCA regarding their role
as prosecutors ?
2. Whatever the reasons are
for (a) the huge percentage of defendants appealing and (b) the
high percentage of successful appeals, both figures palpably evidence
that there is something amiss in the way that either (a) the RSPCA
progress prosecutions and/or (b) the manner in which these prosecutions
are adjudicated by the Magistrates. Put simply, there is most
definitely something wrongthe result being that there are
many defendants who, having either having pleaded guilty of having
been found so to be, are the subjects for miscarriages of justice.
3. The new Animal Welfare
Bill, combined with the Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act
2000, exacerbates this position; firstly by granting even greater
and more heinous powers to a charity whose manner and operandi
in progressing prosecutions must, if only by virtue of the figures
above, be questionable; and secondly by stripping defendants,
by Statute, of so many Human Rights. The result might be seen
by some as a "dictatorship" in ruthless pursuit of the
defenceless and his assets; and in circumstances wherein there
is no "United Nations" to guard the defenceless from
what is tantamount to an overwhelming power of state.
4. Given the above figures,
it is hardly surprising that the RSPCA wish to have a 51 week
prison term as a maximum; thereby securing prosecutions to the
"summary" route and thus retaining the "comfort"
of the Magistrates. The Animal Welfare Bill seemingly deliberately
seeks to maximize potential sentence without compromising the
"benefits" of prosecuting within the Magistrates' Courts.
Public Policy ImplicationsA further
analysis of the figures by Colin J Vogel BVetMed MRCVS, MCIArb
Detailed figures have for the first time become
available for the private prosecutions brought by the RSPCA. It
is therefore possible to compare those figures with the figures
for other criminal charges brought before the Magistrates Courts
by the CPS.
Fewer defendants plead guilty in RSPCA cases
(83.94% compared with 90% in CPS cases). This may be because they
find it harder to accept their guilt, but it may be because they
are not guilty. Their confidence in their innocence means that
26.72% appeal to the Crown Court compared with 1-1.4% (depending
on the source) of CPS prosecutions. What is significant is that
in over half those appeals the Crown Court agreed with them and
allowed the appeal. It must be of concern that the percentage
of successful appeals against RSPCA prosecutions is so much greater
that that against CPS prosecutions (54.84% v 22 30%). Any system
that accepts that over 50% of decisions can be wrong must be investigated.
There is one possibility that would explain
these discrepancies, and that is that the RSPCA prosecutors do
not apply the same criteria as the CPS when deciding whether to
prosecute or not. That would explain not only why the defendants
are prepared to put themselves through the stress of an appeal
(and the adverse personal publicity attracted by RSPCA cases is
often greater than in CPS cases), but also why their legal representatives
are able to advise the LSC that there are good grounds for such
an appeal. It is significant that those legal representatives
are normally dealing with CPS cases and would judge the RSPCA
cases by the same criteria.
It may be possible to get an indication of where
the RSPCA is being over zealous. As both the Magistrates Court
and the Crown Court hear basically the same evidence, it would
appear to be in respect of the weight which should legally be
given to that evidence, or the legality by which it is obtained,
that the Crown Courts disagree with the Magistrates. The CPS experience
is able to prevent this, hence the huge discrepancy (26.72% v
1-1.4%) in the number of appeals brought before the Crown Court.
It is also appropriate to consider the costs
of these prosecutions to the state. The cost of a contested trial
in the magistrates Court is significantly greater than an uncontested
trial. By their very nature, especially their involvement of expert
witnesses, RSPCA cases take about three times as long as the average
CPS contested trial in the Magistrates Court. However then 26
times as many defendants will justifiably appeal in RSPCA cases
as would do in CPS cases, incurring even greater costs. The right
of the defendants to do so cannot be disputed when such an unacceptably
high percentage of convictions (54,84%) are subsequently overturned.
A requirement for the RSPCA to obtain CPS approval
or support before launching a prosecution would lean to an increase
in the CPS costs, but on these RSPCA figures it would save many
times that amount in Court costs, and Court time. The draft Animal
Welfare Bill is likely to increase the number of prosecutions;
that is why the RSPCA has been campaigning for such a Bill.
It follows that it will increase the waste of
public funds on Court costs unless this problem is resolved.
A simpler and more cost effective solution would
be to make these offences triable "either way". That
would mean that the longer (and they can last 10 or more days)
contested trials would go straight to the Crown Court. They would
only need to be heard once, and both evidential and legal aspects
would be dealt with together.
(Source of figures: Figures in bold
are those supplied to a Member of Parliament by J Ballard, RSPCA.
Figures not in bold are by computation unless their source is
|(B)||Total Number of prosecutions
|(C)||Total Number of Convictions
|(D)||Total Number of Defendants
|(E)||Number of Defendants who pleaded Not Guilty
||149|| being||16.08% of the Total number of Defendants
|(1) Number of Defendants who pleaded Guilty|
|779|| being||83.94% of the Total number of Defendants
|(F)||Number of Defendants who pleaded Not Guilty and found Not Guilty
||33|| being||22.15% of the number of Defendants who pleaded Not Guilty
|(1) Number of Defendants who pleaded Not Guilty but found Guilty
||116|| being||77.85% of the number of Defendants who pleaded Not Guilty
|(a) Number of Defendants who appealed
||31|| being||26.72% of the number who pleaded Not Guilty but found Guilty
| (i) Number of successful appeals
||17|| being||54.84% of the number of Defendants who appealed.
| (ii) Number of unsuccessful appeals
||14|| being||45.16% of those Defendants who appealed.
|(G)||Conviction and Acquittal Rates
|(1) For ALL Defendants:
|(2) For those Defendants who pleaded Not guilty.
|(b) Crown Court||45.16%
(1) A Defendant is almost twice (1.72) as likely to be
convicted in the Magistrates' Court as opposed to the Crown Court.
(2) A Defendant is over twice (2.48) as likely to be acquitted
in Crown Court as opposed to the Magistrates' Court.
Other relevant information:
(3) "Few of those convicted and sentenced in the
magistrates' courts take the matter to appeal, even by way of
rehearing as of right in the Crown Court. In 2000, there were
nearly 14,000 appeals against conviction and/or sentence to the
Crown Court, 125 appeals by way of case stated to the Divisional
Court and 336 claims of judicial review in criminal cases to the
Divisional Court. Expressed in percentage terms, less than 1%
of magistrates' courts' decisions are appealed. By any standards,
those are very low levels of appeal." (Source: Review
of the Criminal Courts of England and Waleshttp://www.criminal-courts-review.org.uk/ccr-12.htm)
(4) The main avenue of appeal from the Crown Court as
a court of first instance is to the Court of Appeal. Between April
2000 and March 2001, there were 2,029 applications for leave to
appeal against conviction, of which 430 were granted leave, and
5,545 applications for leave to appeal against sentence, of which
1,426 went to appeal. The percentage rates of success on appeal
were 30% for conviction appeals and nearly 68% for sentence appeals.
(Source: Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Waleshttp://www.criminal-courts-review.org.uk/ccr-12.htm)
(5) The Home Office's "Flows and Costs Model"
predicts that 90% of defendants restricted to magistrates' courts
in future will plead guilty and only 10% not guilty. Conviction
rates at magistrates' courts suggest that only one in three of
this 10% will be acquitted. This means of the 12-14,000 defendants
likely to be affected, around 3%, (400¸500) will be cleared
at magistrates' courts, compared with the 3120-3640 currently
acquitted or cleared at Crown Court. (Source: The University
of Warwick: http://newsevents.bit10.net/index.cfm?page=pressrelease&id=431)
Figures compiled by David Arthur