RSPCA launches 'fighting fund' to pay for expensive private prosecutions

Chief executive Gavin Grant hopes the fund will neutralise future criticism over expensive cases after it spent more than £320,000 successfully prosecuting the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire

Gavin Grant
Gavin Grant

The RSPCA has launched a ‘fighting fund’ to raise money for private prosecutions after it brought a successful case against a hunt in Oxfordshire for illegal fox hunting.

The animal charity brought what it said was the first successful corporate prosecution against an organised fox hunt after independent monitors filmed Heythrop Hunt members killing a fox in contravention of the Hunting Act 2004.

The case, which concluded last week, cost the charity more than £320,000.

Judge Tim Pattinson, presiding over the case, criticised the RSPCA for the amount of money it spent prosecuting the case and said the public might feel the money could be "more usefully employed".

But Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA, told Third Sector that the money spent on bringing the case was mainly spent on analysing and preparing hundreds of hours of video footage to bring to court, rather than on a barrister’s fees.

To neutralise future criticism regarding expensive private prosecutions, Grant said the charity had launched a new ‘fighting fund’, to which supporters would be asked to donate on the understanding that the money would be used to pursue high-profile legal cases or judicial reviews.

"There is a dilemma for us between fighting these cases and carrying out animal welfare work, which is why we have started a fund to fight these cases," he said. "Many of our supporters are willing to contribute to it."

Grant said that even before the fund was unveiled RSPCA supporters had been asking the charity to support the private prosecution. "Our supporters and donors have been in touch to congratulate us on what we’ve done regarding Heythrop," he said.

The charity spent 4 per cent of its income, or £4.7m, on 2,000 prosecutions last year.

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