Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum submitted by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

  In the course of our giving evidence on 13 October 2004, a small number of matters arose which we think should be clarified and these are set out below.

  We explained that we prosecute as private prosecutors, exercising a right which belongs to every citizen of England and Wales. That right is a common law (ie non-statutory) right although its continuing existence has been confirmed by statute (Prosecution of Offences Act 1985) and by the Law Commission (Report No 255 1998). Although we use this right to bring prosecutions under the Protection of Animals Act 1911 (and various other statutes), the 1911 Act is not the source of the right. If that was the impression given in our evidence we wish to correct it.

  There was some confusion about the definition of "inspectors" in the Bill. Whilst clause 44 does provide that local authorities shall have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State when appointing inspectors, clause 54(1) actually defines inspector as "a person appointed to be an inspector for the purposes of this Act by the appropriate national authority or a local authority". It should be clear from clause 54(1) that the Bill does not refer to RSPCA inspectors

  We wish to make clear that local RSPCA branches have no involvement in prosecutions. All inspectors and prosecutors are employed by the national RSPCA.

  We were asked if we thought offences under the Bill should be tried in the Crown Court. Our response was that the most serious offences, namely the fighting offences under clause 2 of the Bill, should attract higher sentences so as to be triable either way. By way of further explanation, a triable either way offence is one that is capable of being tried either in the magistrates' court or in the Crown Court. So in effect we would like there to be the option of the most serious offences being tried in the Crown Court.

  We were asked if we were opposed to the use of all electric fences. Our response was that we were opposed to their use for training purposes. We would like to make clear that we are not opposed to their use for farming purposes for the containment of livestock.

19 October 2004

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