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RSPCA officers could be granted the power to issue on-the-spot fines should Home Office proposals become law. The Government intends to extend the power of some “authority figures” (other than the police), entitling them to give out fixed penalty notices up to a value of £100.

The measures are aimed at tackling offences such as vandalism, anti-social behaviour and theft. If the proposals are made law, teachers, council workers and RSPCA officers, for example, could be granted the power to issue such fines. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, as well as civil liberties groups, have voiced their opposition to the move, saying justice would be taken away from professionals and put into the hands of “wholly inappropriate groups of people.”

Tim Bonner, of the Countryside Alliance, is critical of the potential powers that would be given to RSPCA inspectors. He told ST: “If the RSPCA was consistently acting purely as an animal welfare organisation, then this could be justified. The transformation of the group into a political animal rights campaigning group would make us seriously concerned about whether they would use the powers granted to them without bias. The RSPCA actively campaigns against shooting as well as hunting, and that’s why we don’t think it would use these powers in the best interests of animal welfare.”

The bill is currently going through Parliament, and the Home Office has said that new powers would not be accredited to individuals without first being debated

in Parliament.