An independent review of our prosecution activity has concluded that we should continue our role as a prosecuting body.

However the report, which was commissioned by us, has recommended a re-positioning of our long-standing enforcement role to bring it up to date with 21st century expectations of transparency and accountability.

The review acknowledges the “substantial and important” role undertaken by us in enforcing animal welfare legislation in England and Wales and its “huge contribution to animal welfare.”


We’re considering recommendations

RSPCA chairman Mike Tomlinson welcomed the report, he said:

“This report underlines the vital work undertaken by us and demanded by the public to investigate animal welfare issues in England and Wales, but we accept the need to adapt our approach to meet modern expectations of transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

“We are now considering the report’s recommendations in detail and steps are already underway to implement some of these.

“Our next step will be to discuss the outcome of the review with other key players in enforcement of animal welfare legislation such as the government and other statutory enforcement bodies to develop a more clearly defined strategy for the enforcement of animal welfare legislation.”


Independent review recommendations

The review, by former Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, Stephen Wooler, makes 33 recommendations on our investigation and prosecution activity, including:

  • inviting the government to put our investigation and prosecution functions on a more formal basis, seeking statutory appointment of RSPCA inspectors under the Animal Welfare Act 2006
  • more detailed operational guidance to govern relationships with the police
  • re-alignment of our prosecution role in certain areas such as animal sanctuary cases
  • a comprehensive review to be undertaken by us of our prosecutions structure including the adoption of a prosecution policy statement and clearer guidelines on how we assess whether to take prosecutions

We have already appointed an internal steering group to coordinate our work on responding to the recommendations. Our council will report back in 18 months on the progress we have achieved in responding to the recommendations.

Steps are also being considered to improve the Society’s complaints procedure to improve transparency and accountability.


Moving forward for animal welfare

Mr Tomlinson added:

“We recognise that the world has dramatically changed during the 190 years that we have been investigating animal welfare complaints and helping to enforce the country’s animal welfare laws.

“We accept the need to re-position our long-standing enforcement role and will now consider these recommendations in detail. We are determined to ensure that we operate an enforcement process fit for the 21st century. The public and the animals deserve no less.”


Lessons learned from hunt prosecutions

In another recommendation, the review invites us to develop a policy relating to its involvement in hunting prosecutions. This will require discussions with both the police and Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Tomlinson said:

“Hunting prosecutions are a tiny part of our enforcement work but this review provides an ideal opportunity to look at the way we handle such cases and to make any necessary adjustments.

“Significantly, the review found that our prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt had been appropriately brought and was not politically motivated. We accept the criticism that the costs of that case were much too high and have implemented lessons learned in subsequent cases.”


Prosecuting animal cruelty and neglect

Read the full report, our response and find out more about our prosecutions work.

Our inspectors deal with animal cruelty and neglect on a regular basis. Learn more about the types of cases they deal with in our animal cruelty stories.