The RSPCA could lose its power to prosecute


6 August 2015

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee is due to launch a parliamentary inquiry into whether the RSPCA should be allowed to both investigate and prosecute cases of animal cruelty.

Founded in 1824, the RSPCA is thought to be the first animal charity in the world.

The RSPCA, which is the second-biggest prosecutor in England and Wales behind the Crown Prosecution Service, claims the private prosecutions it brings saves government £50m a year. In 2014, the charity brought charges relating to animal cruelty against 1,132 people in England and Wales.

In recent years the RSPCA has been accused of bringing spurious and politically-motivated private prosecutions against hunt supporters.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, animal welfare groups have the power to investigate cases, but the decision to prosecute lies with the state. It is believed that this model is being considered as a potential alternative in England and Wales.

The investigation is likely to take the form of a ‘mini-inquiry’ and involve other animal welfare groups such as Battersea Dogs Home and Blue Cross. The investigation will look to assess the purpose of the RSPCA and the structure of the organisation.

If you require legal advice or representation on current or pending prosecution please contact Elizabeth Bradshaw on either 01206 369889 or    

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.