Further supplementary memorandum submitted
by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Committee has asked us to comment
on an assertion made by the Self Help Group for Farmers etc (SHG)
that, whilst the RSPCA may have a 96.6% conviction rate in its
prosecutions compared with 98% for the CPS, the number of defendants
who appeal convictions in the magistrates' court is 26 times greater
for RSPCA prosecutions than for CPS prosecutions and that the
number of successful appeals is two times greater in RSPCA cases
than CPS cases.
SHG's figures are seriously flawed for reasons,
which we explain below. Table 1 shows the number of defendants
that appealed against RSPCA convictions for the past 2½ years.
In 2002 this was just under 5% of all defendants convicted, 3.3%
in 2003 and 5.4% to June this year. Of these appeals, only five
defendants during this 30 month period (5.1% of all defendants
appealing) were successful (ie the conviction was quashed). This
is 0.2% of all defendants convicted during the period. The appeals
of 38% of all defendants appealing were dismissed or withdrawn.
The remaining appeals were upheld in relation to sentence but
the convictions still stand. The courts, not the RSPCA, decide
SHG say that in 2003 54.84% of appeals against
conviction in RSPCA cases resulted in acquittal. This claim is
both wrong and dishonest. In fact, the percentage of successful
appeals against conviction in that year ie one compared with total
number of appeals ie 31, is 3.2% and not 54.84% as claimed by
SHG. The reason for the high SHG figure is that they included
in their figures those cases in which the appellant was not acquitted
but did succeed in having his/her sentence varied. This is dishonest
for two reasons. First, a defendant whose sentence is varied on
appeal has clearly not been acquitted. Second, a prosecutor is
not allowed to address the court on the issue of sentence. It
is a matter decided purely by the magistrates having heard representations
from the defendant. Therefore, a reduction in sentence cannot
in any way reflect upon the propriety of bringing a prosecution
in the first place or its conduct.
The RSPCA does not believe that SHG have made
a fair comparison of RSPCA appeals with CPS appeals. SHG claim
that the RSPCA has an appeal rate of 26.72%. This figure is based
on the number of defendants who appealed in 2003 as a percentage
of the number of defendants who pleaded not guilty but were nevertheless
convicted. The correct comparison would be of the total number
of appeals compared with all defendants convicted which gives
a percentage of 3.3% in 2003. The 1% figure which SHG quote for
appeals against CPS prosecutions appears to have been calculated
on the correct basis, although it is not an accurate comparison
for other reasons. It is taken from Lord Justice Auld's "Review
of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales" which was published
in 2001 and uses 1999 and 2000 figures. It relates to all magistrates'
court cases and not just those brought by the CPS. It appears
to be based on the number of defendants who appealed in 2000 as
a percentage of the number of defendants convicted in that year.
On this basis SHG should have claimed that the number of appeals
in RSPCA cases was 3.3 times as great as appeals in CPS cases
(not 26 times as great).
To a large extent, the number of defendants
who appeal against conviction is irrelevant. The important figure
is the number of defendants who successfully appeal ie are acquitted.
This figure, as given above, is only five in the past 30 months.
The RSPCA only prosecutes in respect of animal-related
crime. The CPS prosecutes in respect of the whole range of criminal
offences. Many of these are much more straightforward to prove
(such as speeding or failure to wear a seatbelt) and do not carry
the stigma of offences against animals and so are not as hotly
contested. Statistically valid comparisons can be made only by
comparing RSPCA conviction rates with CPS (and other prosecuting
bodies) conviction rates for animal-related crimes.
Animal-related offences are not "recordable
offences" and so the police and CPS are not obliged to, and
do not, keep any records of their numbers. We are aware of a very
rough police estimate that there are fewer than 50 animal-related
CPS prosecutions per year. If correct, this would mean that fewer
than 0.0036% of CPS cases relate to animals. We do not believe
sound conclusions about animal-related cases can be drawn from
figures which relate to all 1.5 million CPS cases per year.
Finally, we would like to comment on SHG's claim
that the CPS has a 98% conviction rate in the magistrates' court
compared with 96.6% for the RSPCA. The 98% figure comes from the
CPS's annual report for the period from April 2003-March 2004,
so it is not a direct comparison with RSPCA figures, which relate
to the 2003 calendar year. More importantly, the 98% figure compares
all CPS cases, which go to trial with the number of those cases,
which result in a conviction. If one compares all CPS cases (and
not just those that go to a full trial) with those cases which
result in a conviction, the figure is 78.9%.
a Table showing number of defendants convicted
and appeals upheld in RSPCA prosecutions 2002-04 (June)
|Number of Defendants Convicted
|Number of Defendants Appealing
(or Withdrawn) IE, Convictions Still Standing
Upheld in Part IE, Convictions
but Original Sentence
|Appeals Upheld IE, Convictions Quashed (% figure is % of appeals upheld of defendants convicted)