RSPCA and legal aid.

Sugarplum Furry

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Just a quick question...am I right in thinking it's now not possible for the accused to get legal aid in an RSPCA case?
 

Luci07

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Just a quick question...am I right in thinking it's now not possible for the accused to get legal aid in an RSPCA case?
Bumping as curious. I can't see that would be the case at all but stand together corrected.
 

Shay

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You can only get legal aid if you are prosecuted under the criminal system. Although the CPS (Crown prosecution servce) do occasionaly take on RSPCA cruelty cases many are also brought by the RSPCA privately. CPS have a fairly high burden of evidence to avoid a waste of tax payer's money. The RSPCA has been heavily recently criticised in its use of donations to support animal welfare going on failed attempts at civil prosecution.
 

Alec Swan

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If the rspca take on a prosecution, then I fail to see how those without the means to a defence could be denied legal aid. Casting the ill prepared before any prosecuting counsel would hardly be justice.

Alec.
 

Toby_Zaphod

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I don't think legal aid is available for RSPCA cases for some time. Additionally the Legal Aid Fund has been drastically reduced recently & even fewer people will be able to claim for that aid.
 

pennyturner

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I don't see how anyone can have a fair trial vs RSPCA when no vet dare speak out against them. If RSPCA decide I'm being cruel, no matter what the reason (and I have never met one who could identify one end of the horse from another) , I'm guilty. They know best, right?

I have a horse who is only alive and well today because my VET agreed we could treat him (rather than PTS) since he was kept at home, so there was no chance of the RSPCA seeing him! They would have insised the horse be shot, and prosecuted the vet.

Legal aid is not the problem. The RSPCA are operating above the law.
 

competitiondiva

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pennyturner, what a load of ...........................!!!! If they were above the law I think they'd have been stopped long ago!!! Lol! Anyone going to court has the right to be represented by a legal representative, the duty solicitor is free.
 

Mike007

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Pennyturner, for what its worth I think you are spot on. Of course RSPCA appologists like Moomin1 wont see it that way . If the RSPCA vanished tomorrow ,animals in this country would be no worse off. We might then also start to tackle the true causes of animal suffering.
 

Moomin1

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Pennyturner, for what its worth I think you are spot on. Of course RSPCA appologists like Moomin1 wont see it that way . If the RSPCA vanished tomorrow ,animals in this country would be no worse off. We might then also start to tackle the true causes of animal suffering.
Fantastic - so when are you going to start tackling the true causes of animal suffering? How are the RSPCA preventing YOU from doing this?
 

Mike007

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I guess I am already.The true cause is ignorance. The RSPCA way is to prosecute ,prosecute and prosecute because its good for the funds and that keeps those at the top secure with their fat saleries.The animals have already suffered by the time the RSPCA are interested.It might come as a surprise to you that the P in RSPCA stands for prevention not Prosecution!
 

lastchancer

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I guess I am already.The true cause is ignorance. The RSPCA way is to prosecute ,prosecute and prosecute because its good for the funds and that keeps those at the top secure with their fat saleries.The animals have already suffered by the time the RSPCA are interested.It might come as a surprise to you that the P in RSPCA stands for prevention not Prosecution!
Hahaha good answer there :)
 

Sugarplum Furry

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Me again. Cheers for your answers (didn't want to cause any arguments!). I've done some research now and it seems to be true, legal aid isn't available for defendants in RSPCA cases. I was asking for a friend who has been summonsed, this person, who's horses were seized without warning, can't afford to hire a solicitor due to spending every penny on the horse's keep through the wretched bad winter and spring , is extremely depressed and recently attempted suicide as a result. It's a lose/lose situation, no chance of fighting the RSPCA at all.
 

Zebedee

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Well I assume she has photos etc to show that the horses were in good health? She'll have receipts or at least be able to get written confirmation from feed / forage merchants, farrier, vet etc that the horses basic needs were being met and that their welfare wasn't compromised? That be enough of a foundation to base a defence on.
However...........as the majority of complaints against the RSPCA are that they do nothing in the face of obvious equine suffering I find it odd that in this instance they may have removed horses that were on good health. When did this happen?
 

Sugarplum Furry

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It happened in March. Sorry I can't go into the ins and outs of the case but yes, she has confirmation of purchases from feed and hay merchants and a print outs from her vet with records of call outs and treatments. And photos of the horses before they were taken.
 

mtj

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Just to throw a cat amongst the pidgeons - did any of you do the survey by WHW on our welfare perception of horses.

This included instances of very poor horses alongside stocks of hay/feed etc. Purchased but not used.
 

Amazona

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Me again. Cheers for your answers (didn't want to cause any arguments!). I've done some research now and it seems to be true, legal aid isn't available for defendants in RSPCA cases. I was asking for a friend who has been summonsed, this person, who's horses were seized without warning, can't afford to hire a solicitor due to spending every penny on the horse's keep through the wretched bad winter and spring , is extremely depressed and recently attempted suicide as a result. It's a lose/lose situation, no chance of fighting the RSPCA at all.

and as far the RSPCA they are in a win win situation ..even when they lose a case it has no effect as they request the tax payer foots the bill for court cost "because they are a charity"
 

Fenris

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Legal aid is available for RSPCA cases but is limited and switches on and off.

If someone is being interviewed they should insist that the interview is held at a police station. They will qualify for the duty solicitor or a solicitor of choice who does this sort of work on legal aid.

legal aid then switches off until a summons is received.

The protections that were put in place in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 are essentially worthless because they are civil applications in the Magistrates court.

So if the RSPCA decide to ask the court to give them permission to dispose of animals before they have issued a summons there is no legal aid to obtain any legal advice, let alone specialist legal advice. The choice is stark. Find the money to pay, act as LIP or you lose your animals by default.

Yes, there are cases where people lost their animals, were eventually summonsed and found not guilty - only their animals were already lost.

Ironic that the AWA allows an appeal but still provides no legal funding.

Any individual whose animals have been removed can apply to the courts for their return - if they are wealthy enough to pay.

Anyway, when a summons is finally received legal aid clocks in again but it is means tested. (in England and Wales Scotland has its own legal system)

Not at home right now, so don't hold these figures as accurate, but if someone is earning up to about £11,000 a year they should get legal aid . Over £11,000 but under (can't remember 22 or 26,000 ) they should get it but it will be means tested, and over the upper limit they would need to make a special hardship application.

Self employed applications are difficult and need accounts.

Tell whoever is being prosecuted to give the SHG a ring on 0744 99 89 411
 

competitiondiva

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Mike 007 the problem with your theory is that unless you work for or closely with the RSPCA your knowledge as most peoples, will only be what is in the public domain. So any other work they do that isn't news worthy, people don't know about. As prosecutions sell papers, papers print these stories, so naturally that is what you believe they only do, doesn't mean to say your right. If you want to look onto it, see their figures of how many complaints they attended versus how many prosecutions they brought, I think you'll find a massive difference.
 

Pearlsasinger

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Anyone going to court has the right to be represented by a legal representative, the duty solicitor is free.
Now that really is a load of rubbish!

The 'right' to legal aid, and therefore legal representation, has just been removed from a large number of people for a wide range of cases. There will be people who are facing far more serious cases than those brought by RSPCA who cannot get legal aid.
 

pennyturner

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[ignoring personal insults and standing by my earlier comments which are factual and based on personal experience]

The problem with any case brought by the RSPCA is that their statements are relied on by the courts as carrying the weight of absolute authority on matters of animal welfare. Therefore if RSPCA state as fact something which may not always be the case(e.g. a horse needs a rug.) any counter argument made by the defendant sounds like they're in denial and guilty. There is no independence.

Hence why my specialist equine vet of many years experience was not prepared to risk his reputation by taking a judgement call to try to save a horse, without being sure that there was no chance of RSPCA involvement. They could destroy him, and that's not right.

My horse had been badly injured in an RTA. Severe trauma to shoulder, not bearing weight. X-rays showed no fracture. There was a real risk that he would founder on the good leg before the bad shoulder healed, but he was only 4 and we wanted to give him the chance. He made a full recovery following initial stitching and, 6mths wound-care, and a further 18mths conservative management.

Should I really have to HIDE him from RSPCA to treat him?
 

Fenris

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Now that really is a load of rubbish!

The 'right' to legal aid, and therefore legal representation, has just been removed from a large number of people for a wide range of cases. There will be people who are facing far more serious cases than those brought by RSPCA who cannot get legal aid.
It is difficult to think of many cases that are both more serious and also do not qualify for legal aid if the financial hurdles are overcome.

Never let anyone tell you that an RSPCA prosecution is not serious. it can result in:

£20,000 fine
6 months in prison
Lifetime ban on any contact with any animal
240 hours community service
massive costs
loss of all of your animals

The investigation can lead to employers being notified by the RSPCA that they are investigating. Links theory is often quoted so that people find they are suspended from their jobs.

Social services may be informed if there are children or other vulnerable people living in the house.

Add to that the devastating attacks by AR people and other nasty minded trolls who drive the vulnerable to breakdowns and suicide.

Even the professionals are not immune. Vets, barristers, solicitors who defend their clients are all subject to continuing complaints. Easy to say if they have done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear - think of the time and cost of defending such allegations.

Add to that mix the RSPCA training courses and material for magistrates and ask yourself if a fair trial ever really existed except in the imagination of the politicians.
 

competitiondiva

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Pennyturner I'm confused, you hid your horse because you were worried the rspca might be called and your vet wasn't prepared to defend his professional opinion against another rcvs vet??? If so why do you speak with such conviction when your experience is conjecture and the rspca in actual fact had no involvement what so ever???? Or have i completely misunderstood? If there is a problem with rspca taking private prosecutions I would suggest the fault lies with the judicial system not the rspca themselves.... I refuse to believe those found guilty of neglect or abuse by the rspca were in actual fact innocent!!! Mmm Jammie gray say no more...
 

Alec Swan

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.......

The problem with any case brought by the RSPCA is that their statements are relied on by the courts as carrying the weight of absolute authority on matters of animal welfare. Therefore if RSPCA state as fact something which may not always be the case(e.g. a horse needs a rug.) any counter argument made by the defendant sounds like they're in denial and guilty. There is no independence.

.......
Considering the role of the rspca in prosecutions, here in lies the bulk of the problem, in my view. Generally, courts have to rely on the opinions of those before them, and with rspca involvement, and with what we'll refer to as evidence being placed before a court, there are few who are able to contradict them. Few are able to defend themselves, and with most solicitors being ill informed, the charity who have no business conducting such serious matters, are of the view that it's like taking candy from a baby, and they're right.

It should be known by all that the rspca are limited in their rights. The following may be of help;

They do NOT have powers of entry to private land or dwellings.
They do not have the powers of seizure from members of the public.
If there is food and water before an animal, and that animal has been recently, or is currently in receipt of veterinary attention, then the rspca are just about powerless.
It is still the right (sic) of the owner of any creature, to have veterinary care, to feed, water and care for their charges, and to allow the animal to die a lingering and difficult death. Wrong it may be, but that it is the "right" of the owner. That "right" is such that the rspca can go no further than request evidence as to the attempts which have been made at "care". The rspca have no grounds for prosecution in the cases where they are unable to prove neglect.
The rspca have no rights to compel animal owners to comply with their wishes, without the prior support of a Court.

The problems with the rspca go far deeper than what would appear on the surface. The rspca, in part because they have little choice, are now being run as a business and there would be a contradiction to refer to them as an active charity. The fund raising efforts are carefully managed whereby even when they fail in their often clumsy attempts at prosecution, they are still in a win-win situation from the fund raising viewpoints, as it broadens their appeal.

I've disagreed with, often receiving quite spirited criticism (;):D), and spoken out against the misguided and in my view near fraudulent ethos which seems apparent within the rspca, but until I see change, and the rspca becoming fit for purpose, I shall maintain my view. The problems and the responsibilities lie clearly with the senior management of the rspca, and they either fail or refuse, to accept criticism which will once again restore any degree of kudos.

I once pointed out to a senior official of the rspca, that self praise was no recommendation, and he put the 'phone down on me! Whilst I'm unable to provide evidence, there are or have been, those within the rspca who've attempted to make changes, and for the better, but they never seem to retain any degree of authority, for very long.

We have need of a RSPCA, just not the one which we have.

Alec.
 

Goldenstar

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and as far the RSPCA they are in a win win situation ..even when they lose a case it has no effect as they request the tax payer foots the bill for court cost "because they are a charity"
This makes my blood boil, the state has all but handed over the job has decideing who gets brought to justice to a charity following it's own agenda who then expects the taxpayer to pick up the bill for cases the state has no control over.
These cases should be prosecuted by the State .
 

MillyMoomie

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You are all so ignorant it's actually laughable.

The CPS which goldenstar refers to as 'the state', is a government department responsible for criminal prosecutions that are investigated by the POLICE. It is for the POLICE only. It was originally set up because it was decided (quite rightly) that a police officer investigating an offense should not be the one deciding if to prosecute. It was also to standardise the prosecution procedures and standards used in police criminal prosecutions... as different forces throughout the country were maintaining different standards. As the CPS is the principal prosecuting body it has a right to look into and take over other organisations prosecutions if necessary. Although this obviously comes straight out of the public purse.

The RSPCA takes private prosecutions as anyone of us can and it is considered to be an animal welfare specialist prosecutor, because well, IT IS!!
The RSPCA prosecutions works in a similar smaller way to the CPS, the Inspectors don't make the ultimate decision, they investigate and present a casefile to case manager who has legal qualifications who then makes a decision. Then a separate solicitor takes over. The solicitor is not employed solely to the RSPCA. All this is done in accordance with PACE, the same as the CPS.

The RSPCA inspector is not considered an expert witness. It not ' a statement of fact' as one poster put. The Inspector will provide their own statement and evidence which is presented to the court. Any vet or specialist involved would be the expert witness. Everybody can be cross examined by the defense. If the Inspector or the expert witness statement or evidence is wrong they are in for a hard time.

If somebody's vet is not prepared to give their professional opinion in court I would suggest they were not entirely sure they were correct!!
The reason the RSPCA do hold weight in a court room is because MOST cases have the evidence to back it up and there are no holes.

The RSPCA have no powers and HAVE to state that to anyone investigated. They will and do get criticised if they don't and the case will often not even get to court on that.

Quite simply if you are a responsible animal owner who adheres to the animal welfare act there should be nothing to stop anyone proving that.
 

pennyturner

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Ah, the old 'if you've got nothing to hide' argument.

I was told by the vet that if he were on a public yard where he would be seen, someone was likely to phone the RSPCA, and they'd be likely to insist he was PTS. To defend their PTS reflex, there would be a challenge to his professional judgement (never mind mine as the owner of the horse!), which could lead to him losing his practice licence and reputation. Clearly he couldn't take that risk, so we were OK so long as I could keep him where he was - in a stable by my house in the middle of the nowhere.

At the time, I lost alot of sleep worrying if it was right, as I was well aware of the risks, but I went with my instinct. It was an unpleasant business, (the wound was horrific) and I expected to keep him as a paddock ornament for the rest of his life, but as it happens he's now back in work, and looks amazing.

There's not much of a scar, considering the damage, but from time to time we still get bits of blue paint and glass working their way to the surface.
 
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