RSPCA appoints lawyer to review its private prosecutions

Stephen Wooler, a former chief inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, will examine the effectiveness of the animal welfare charity's legal work


The RSPCA has appointed a senior lawyer to carry out a review of its private prosecutions.

The animal welfare charity said in a statement that it had appointed Stephen Wooler, a former chief inspector of HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, to carry out the independent assessment, which will begin in the new year.

The review will examine "the context in which the RSPCA works as a charity and how prosecution decisions are taken, as well as the conduct of criminal cases in meeting the standards of a reasonable, competent and objective prosecutor", the charity said. Interested parties and members of the public will be invited to participate in the review.

It was reported earlier in the year that the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, had written to the charity saying it may wish to consider asking "an independent person, such as an experienced criminal barrister," to conduct a review of its policies.

Wooler said in a statement: "The public aspect of the RSPCA’s work is both substantial and important – the public depend heavily on it. I shall draw on my experience to identify strengths and weaknesses so as to present a clear picture of how effectively this work is being done, offer reassurance where appropriate and flag up where changes and improvement may be needed."

Ray Goodfellow, chief legal officer at the RSPCA, said: "We strive to be a reasonable and fair-minded prosecutor and this independent review will provide an effective external measure of our performance and highlight any areas of potential improvement."

Last year, the charity investigated 150,000 incidents of alleged animal cruelty in England and Wales, leading to 2000 cases appearing before the courts and securing 4,000 convictions. 

The charity was heavily criticised in sections of the right-wing press last year after it spent more than £320,000 pursuing a successful prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt in Oxfordshire.

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