The RSPCA's relentless pursuit of prosecutions – and a lack of transparency and accountability – has damaged its reputation, Wooler report finds

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The recently published Wooler report, reviewing the RSPCA’s role as the major prosecutor of animal cruelty cases, has suggested the charity needs to stop chasing prosecutions in order to prevent any further damage to its reputation.

Former Crown Prosecution Service chief inspector Stephen Wooler, who conducted the review, said the RSPCA’s pursuit of prosecutions had failed to adapt to meet the public’s expectations of transparency and accountability.

He wrote in the Wooler report:

“The present position is that the RSPCA is utilising its charitable funds to discharge what is effectively a government function but with only limited recognition or reimbursement. Its prosecution role has attracted significant criticisms – some based on principle and others based on the manner in which the RSPCA is perceived as doing it. Some of the principled objections to its current role are difficult to counter, in particular its lack of accountability. Others relating to lack of transparency and the absence of clear and published prosecution policies are capable of being met by changes within the RSPCA itself. Similarly, the Reviewer is confident that where the review has found valid criticisms relating to the conduct of prosecutions, they can be satisfactorily addressed. It is important that weaknesses are addressed because the criticisms and associated media campaign have been damaging to the reputation of the RSPCA.”

This comes after recent news that public donations dropped by £7m last year and the charity announced it would be forced to restructure.

The Wooler report said the RSCPA needs to be “more responsive to the increasing incidences of complaints … and concerns that some of its prosecutions have been inappropriately focussed where little would be achieved.”

He suggested the charity should work on a more structured a publicly accountable basis and start to operate within a framework of checks and balances, including a form of external scrutiny.