RSPCA considering handing over prosecution responsibilities

The RSPCA says it is “exploring the transfer” of its role prosecuting animal abusers to the CPS so the charity can instead focus on preventing frontline cruelty.

The organisation anticipates increased pressure on its prosecution service with tougher sentences for attacks on animals expected to come into force in England and Wales this year.

The RSPCA’s chief executive Chris Sherwood said the charity was pleased it might soon see the maximum penalty for animal abuse be raised from six months to six years, adding: “But this also means a big change in the way cases are prosecuted and sentenced.

“Some of these cases will now move to crown courts and those carrying out the worst abuse could face lengthy jail terms.

“This places a huge responsibility on a charity’s shoulders. We believe this responsibility should sit with the Crown Prosecution Service, which is a statutory public body with regulatory oversight.

Rene Olivieri, the charity’s chair, said it was “the right time to review this role as we look at where we want to be by 2030”.

Mr Sherwood clarified the RSPCA would not be stepping back from prosecutions, only from its role as the prosecutor in a matter.

“Our inspectors would still be rescuing, investigating and collecting evidence of cruelty and abuse and seeking to hand this over to the CPS,” he said.

“We believe that there may be a better way to ensure animals get the justice they deserve by bringing together our expertise in investigations with the CPS’ skills and resources.

The organisation, which became the world’s first animal welfare charity when it was founded in a London coffee shop in 1824, revealed the development around prosecutions as part of its new ten-year strategy.

The Together For Animal Welfare plan includes goals including more of the UK’s farm animals reared to RSPCA welfare standards, reducing pet abuse by 50% and ending the illegal selling of puppies and kittens in Britain.

The CPS has been contacted for comment.