We've talked before about the bullying tactics and self-agrandisement of national campaigning charities - in particular, the NSPCC. Now it appears that the RSPCA have also been travelling down the road that leads to "we do it for the sake of the children/the animals/the poor/the environment/and etc. therefore we must be right and you all have to do what we say".
A few months ago we wrote this …
"when they found all those dying horses and donkeys recently, they rescued them and took them to "two secret locations" in Norfolk.
Why? Why "secret"? What do they think's going to happen? Hordes of sexual pervert donkey-lovers are going to arrive to "groom" the donkeys? Or are they just trying to make themselves seem all cutting-edge and important?"
This referred to the case of Jamie Gray and members of his family who were alleged to have neglected literally hundreds of horses and donkeys at a farm near Amersham, a case which gave rise to a great deal of horrifying and horrified publicity. Now we think we've stumbled on the real reason the RSPCA wanted to be so secretive - the facts about the animals may not have been quite as they had claimed.
An organisation called The Self Help Group for Farmers, Pet Owners and Others Experiencing Difficulties with the RSPCA (SHG for short) have just issued this Press Release …
7th April 2008
EQUINE LAWYERS HAIL AN HISTORIC VICTORY AGAINST RSPCA ALL SPINDLES FARM "RESCUE" HORSES TO BE RETURNED OR SOLD
The action for the return of his horses brought by James ("Jamie") Gray against the RSPCA has taken a dramatic turn. All twenty nine donkeys and Shetland ponies which the RSPCA seized must be returned to the Grays, as the court ordered, "forthwith".
The remaining ninety-six animals, including some valuable thoroughbreds, will, as Mr Gray's lawyers requested, be sold at auction.
Commenting on the court's findings, Anne Kasica of the SHG said "Despite the case having been made a "cause celebre" by the RSPCA's Head of Media, Henry Macaulay, the RSPCA faces yet another public relations disaster following Judge Sandeep Kainth's ruling on Friday in Oxford. This is an enormously positive ruling. It shows that the RSPCA's whole approach to welfare cases is wrong - it will not accept advice from independent vets, for fear that they might say something it doesn't want to hear.
"The RSPCA prefers to take its aggressive courses of action, no matter how unreasonable and wasteful they might be, just as long as they increase the pressure on defendants. Let us hope that this result will force the RSPCA to reconsider its belligerent approach to cruelty cases."
Referring to the claim by Kirsty Hampton of the RSPCA that they had intended to 'seek new owners' for these horses before trial, Ms. Kasica went on to say "This is laughable. The RSPCA only "seek new owners" when they have a court order for confiscation following a successful criminal prosecution - so they can 'rehome' expensive animals with 'acceptable' people for a substantial 'donation' and then try to recover huge boarding costs from the defendants. As a result of the RSPCA's refusal to deliver up any of Mr. Gray's animals the RSPCA faces another huge costs bill from its own lawyers - a specialist firm instructed privately to present the RSPCA's case.
"And yet the RSPCA accepted that all of the donkeys and ponies which have been ordered back were in "good condition" and claimed that they were seized, not because of their condition, but because of "concerns about Mr Gray and his family".
"As to the remainder, there was, the judge rightly ruled, "no evidence to show they were in any danger" and that a sale at auction was a respectable, and traditional, way for horses to change ownership. The idea of a sale in this case never arose until Mr Gray's application, and then the RSPCA resisted it. The RSPCA's idea was to ensure that Mr Gray never got any money for his investment in the horses, and that he should face a massive costs bill.
"Kirsty Hampton is well-known to us. She has been involved in considerable controversy and was responsible for making serious and untrue allegations of cruelty against Mr and Mrs David Burden. In their case, the RSPCA organised a meeting of witnesses, at which the RSPCA ghosted a report which was later claimed to have been written by an 'independent expert' in sheep. Ms Hampton was present at that meeting, and her case against the sheep farmers was thrown out."
Ernest Vine, also of the SHG, said: "There are countless defendants who are experiencing massive high-profile seizures by the RSPCA, who are very aggressive and threaten massive costs orders against them, whilst engaging in a huge media campaign to increase the pressure still further.
"For those still awaiting a private prosecution for cruelty by the RSPCA, which usually takes six months to emerge, this must be very heartening news. Only this week David and Margaret Heading have had over a hundred cattle seized from them by the RSPCA from East Farm in Thetford. Their animals were transported to 'a place of safety' by the RSPCA and I understand that, as with Jamie Gray's case, the RSPCA have not yet suggested their sale."
Mr. Vine concluded "The court in Mr. Grey's case may have been persuaded to make the order by the fact that the RSPCA claimed to have spent an incredible £153,000 boarding his animals so far. Evidence given during the hearing by independent equine specialist vet John Parker contrasted starkly with the RSPCA's highly prejudicial press-releases. Mr. Parker stated that none of the horses, donkeys and ponies had been "caused unnecessary suffering", although some animals had arrived at Mr Gray's farm "from a semi-feral origin". He found the bedding and general condition of the farm to be of an "extremely good quality." And when asked if he believed any animals would be at risk of cruelty if they were returned, Mr Parker simply said "No"."
The Press Release also notes that (a) the RSPCA spends 44% of its annual income of over £100,000,000 (one hundred million pounds) on its prosecutions department, (b) Mr.Gray's animals had been placed with organisations such as the International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) and Redwings, with whom the RSPCA has a special relationship and with whom it worked on the raids which it conducted against Mr Gray. Many of Mr Gray's animals were seized on advice from "independent expert" Nic de Brauwere, who is Head of Welfare at Redwings. Mr de Brauwere claims to have been on hundreds of "unannounced visits" with the RSPCA. He was severely criticised by District Judge Philip Browning, when the RSPCA's private prosecution against Gina and Martin Griffin was thrown out in Norwich.
Launching the RSPCA's usual attack on judges who have found against them, Kirsty Hampton, who was responsible for the raids, said "The decision to return the horses to the Grays is devastating. We had hoped that the court would ask us to seek new owners for them who were guaranteed to provide for their future welfare. An open sale to an unknown bidder means that we cannot be sure of the level of future care they will receive."
In other words, the RSPCA think that no-one should be able to buy a horse without their say-so, a fairly grandiloquent claim by any standards.
Here is the text of an email to the SHG written by a teenager involved in the case …
The RSPCA is corrupt. Those horrible people have told so many lies it's unreal. My uncle is Jamie Gray, the man accused of animal cruelty recently in the press. I'm sure you must have heard about the case.
Here's just a little info to show how corrupt the RSPCA, and certain other Animal Welfare Organisations, are.
My uncle has all his vets' reports for his animals - receipts for the stacks of haylage he has delivered on a regular basis.
My uncle makes every effort to ensure that the wellbeing of his animals is second to none. An independent vet gave very good reports after vetting the animals, but the RSPCA officer in charge of the case wasn't happy with that so she had an RSPCA vet also check them. Apparently, this is "the worse case of animal cruelty he has seen in his 30 years as a vet". If this was the case then he must have been walking around with his eyes closed for the past 30 years. I'm no expert but even I could see those animals were not neglected.
The RSPCA and other welfare organizations involved in this case have all seen the food on site - alone with fresh water and clean dry bedding. But they chose to leave this out of their speeches to the press. The family has been hounded by the press - the very press who have published cruel, wicked lies about them. Their children can no longer go to school, and my aunt can't go to her local shops. Their entire village think they are guilty - and some of the villagers have too made up lies. Their phone is constantly ringing with either the press hounding them to say something or people calling and spouting abuse.
I understand the anger the public are expressing concerning the farm in Amersham, Buckenhamshire. However, the public have not been told the truth. He loves his animals and there is no way he would do what he is being accused of. One of the horses that was taken away was one my uncle actually rescued himself just a week before the RSPCA came in to his farm. But the RSPCA have not mentioned this although they have been made very aware of it. All of his animals were checked by the vet just days before the RSPCA moved in. They told the press that 30+ dead animals were found piled up against a fence. That is mammoth lie on its own.
I seriously do not know how these people sleep at night. There are just too many lies reported in the press for me to mention. These people should never be allowed to do this to innocent people. They are meant to be concerned about the welfare of animals not targeting good people who are animal lovers.
We don't know all the facts in this case, of course, but the more you think about some of the things we do know, the more fishy it smells. The RSPCA's case against the Grays was based on the expert advice of Nic de Brauwere. The animals were seized and transported to two or more private horse sanctuaries, the most prominent being Redwings in Norfolk. Naturally Redwings and the other stables have to be paid by the RSPCA for their help, to the tune of £153,000.
And what is Nic de Brauwere's day job? He works for Redwings. Not suspicious at all, then? No hidden agendas here? No, no, perish the thought. They're all working for the poor fluffy horsy-worsies and donkey-wonkies, so they must be really nice people.
Solicitor Nigel Weller has been involved in challenging a number of the RSPCA's prosecutions. In 2007 a young kennel-maid was cleared of cruelty to a dog in Hampshire, and Weller's press release on 30th Decvember last raises pretty sinister machinations. It was revealed in court that prejudicial, untrue and irrelevant headlines like "Dehydrated animals at kennels drank for minutes" which appeared in the national and local press resulted from material released to the media by the RSPCA to put pressure on the defence.
The court was highly critical of the RSPCA's investigation and its conduct of the matter. In particular, the judgment focused on the way that the young woman had been interviewed and on subsequent discussions between witnesses organised by the prosecutor. The court allowed defence Solicitor Nigel Weller to make inquiries on these points at the trial - they would otherwise have been kept secret, as no disclosure of them was made by the RSPCA.
Something that RSPCA staff refer to as "the usual case conference" had taken place before trial. This apparently involves assembling the main witnesses of fact - here RSPCA inspector, Janet Edwards, and RSPCA vet Kimberley Evans - and arranging a meeting between them with representatives from the RSPCA's Solicitors and also trial Counsel. The evidence was discussed in detail at this "case conference", which was only uncovered by assiduous investigation and cross-examination by the defence with the court's permission. The judge pointed out that such a case conference would be seen by onlookers as tantamount to "fixing" the evidence the witnesses would be giving. As every criminal lawyer knows, meetings of witnesses to discuss the case are unlawful. Fair criminal trials take place in court - not in the offices of lawyers before the trial. Witnesses of fact and experts should never be given the opportunity to discuss or rehearse their evidence - let alone do so. If such discussion happens, then it must be disclosed to the defence immediately - but it wasn't.
The RSPCA was also criticised for its dishonest and cavalier methods in another case fought by Nigel Waller, at Harwich Magistrates Court in 2007. Once again the defendant, a lady accused of cruelty to her cats, was cleared because the RSPCA was revealed to have "coached" witnesses to such an extent that the Magistrates would not hear their evidence.
In April 2006 the Daily Telegraph carried this report …
Two years and £50,000 later, ordeal of policeman who put dying cat out of its misery is finally over
A policeman who put an injured cat out of its misery after it had been run over was dragged through the courts by the RSPCA in a case that has cost £50,000.
After two years and eight hearings, the case against Pc Jonathan Bell was thrown out by the High Court. Pc Bell's supporters accuse the RSPCA of harassment and say the constable has been "to hell and back". He spent a month off work with stress as the legal process ground on.
The officer's ordeal began when he was called to a night-time disturbance in Stoke-on-Trent, in April 2004. Residents showed him a cat that had been run over by a car. It was still alive but badly injured. The constable, 36, called his control room and was told that there was no legal duty on the police to call out a vet, and that the RSPCA could not be contacted at that hour. After consulting with colleagues, he borrowed a spade and killed the cat with a blow to the head, striking three further blows to make sure it was dead.
A passer-by reported him to the RSPCA, which launched a prosecution. The cat's owner was never traced.
Pc Bell, who is married with two children, was acquitted when the trial eventually went ahead last September. District Judge Graham Richards told him: "You did what you honestly thought best. You walk out of here without a stain on your character." Yet despite the judge's words, the RSPCA carried on pursuing the case until, at the High Court last month, Mr Justice Bean refused leave to appeal.
Pc Bell, speaking after the September hearing, said he had "no regrets" about how he dealt with the cat. He said: "I am happy I killed it with the first blow. I made up my mind that I would hit it a number of times to make sure it was dead. I made the decision on what I had in front of me. I looked at the cat and I could see it was completely crushed at the back. I looked at it for between three and five minutes. I decided to put it out of its misery when I realised I was not going to get help from anywhere else."
Colin Vogel, a vet called to give evidence in the trial as an independent expert witness, said the cat had been squashed to within an inch thick at its lower half. "He did the kindest thing, which was to put it out of its misery, whereas if he'd just walked away leaving it injured he could have just as easily faced a charge of animal cruelty."
The RSPCA, funded by voluntary donations, estimated its costs at £12,000. Pc Bell was partially funded by Legal Aid and his bill reached £7,500. Legal experts estimated court costs at £20,000 and the cost to the police, which put up four officers as defence witnesses, at £10,000.
The failed case drew criticism of the RSPCA from others in the animal welfare field. Chris Newman, the chairman of the Federation of Companion Animal Societies, said: "Some of their prosecutions seem to have a political agenda and are about proving a point rather than protecting animal welfare."
The Self Help Group are not the only people who feel the need to band together to resist the RSPCA. The Animadversion website offers victims a forum to publicise their experiences.
One posting by Dr.Barry Peachey details the attempts of an RSPCA Inspector to blackmail a man to give false evidence in a cock-fighting case: "Xxxxx offered me £5,000 in cash to pretend to be the informer … I said this was blackmail, and Xxxxx said I could call it whatever I liked, but there it was, take it or leave it".
In another, a man who runs a "chicken rescue centre" in Suffolk writes "Why did the RSPCA want to claim £41,255.10 for collecting the chickens, looking after them for 13 months AND TO PAY FOR PEOPLE'S STATEMENTS!!!! From me? (yes you read right, the RSPCA paid for statements and were expecting to re-coop the costs from me!)".
A third suggests that the RSPCA have it in for pet-shops.
Others have resorted to the internet to try and justify themselves in the face of the might of the RSPCA and the almost universal condemnation that falls on anyone accused by them of being cruel to animals. This one tells how the RSPCA took cats away from an enthusiast, Mrs.Jewitt, "because she had too many", although there is no law about how many cats you can have. The Inspector shouted and bullied her, and threatened to call the social services and have her children removed.
Mrs.Jewitt offers links to other victims, the most poignant being the elderly couple threatened by the RSPCA with prison because their cat had fleas.
Mind you, the RSPCA's bullying behaviour is nothing new. As long ago as 1985 they were fined for Contempt of Court after they had disciplined one of their officers, Barrymore Hill, for giving evidence to North Walsham Magistrates on behalf of Mr.and Mrs.Retallick, dog-owners who had been accused of cruelty. Barrymore Hill had visited the couple and inspected their pets, and found them to be healthy and well-cared-for, and was willing to speak out in their defence. Naturally the RSPCA didn't like that - they hauled him over the coals, put intense pressure on him, subjected him to their own internal "trial" and issued a formal reprimand although he was allowed to keep his job.
There is a full account of the case here. The Attorney General's representative quoted Lord Denning's words: "There can be no greater contempt than to intimidate a witness before he gives evidence or to victimise him afterwards for having given it. How can we expect a witness to give his evidence freely and frankly, as he ought to do, if he is liable, as soon as the case is over, to be punished for it by those who dislike the evidence he has given?"
Such is the fear of the power and arbitrary malevolence of the RSPCA that a petition to the Prime Minister last year asking for an enquiry attracted a very respectable number of signatures. It's closed now, and didn't really do much good - the government's adamant response was "The Government works closely with the RSPCA to ensure this country has the highest animal welfare standards. The RSPCA has played a crucial role as enforcers of animal welfare law for more than a hundred years, and the Government hopes that they will continue to do so in the future".
So that's it, really. The government are happy to let an unaccountable private organisation carry on policing an important part of British life, and the RSPCA are happy to assume that our love of animals, and consequent unthinking sentimentality about them, allows them carte-blanche.
If the GOS were a pet-owner, he'd be afraid. If he were a farmer, he'd be bloody terrified.
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