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Probe call over 'staggering' hunt case costs

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 24, 2012


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Politicians have called for a watchdog investigation into whether the "staggering" £326,000 spent by the RSPCA on legal action against a fox hunt was a breach of the charity's obligations.

Tory MP Simon Hart, the former head of the Countryside Alliance, has written to the Charity Commission along with a small cross-party group of MPs and peers asking it to investigate.

The commission said that "on face value" there was no reason for it to intervene however, and that it was a matter for the animal protection charity's trustees to scrutinise the spending.

Last Monday the Heythrop Hunt – with which Prime Minister David Cameron has ridden in the past – admitted four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds, in breach of the ban.

District Judge Tim Pattinson imposed a £4,000 fine on the hunt and smaller fines on two individual members and told it to pay £15,000 towards the RSPCA's costs.

But passing sentence, he also said he found "quite staggering" the sum spent by the charity bringing the prosecution.

"Members of the public may feel that RSPCA funds can be more usefully employed," he said.

The politicians, including Labour's Kate Hoey, Liberal Democrat Mark Williams and Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Heseltine, raised concerns in a letter to commission chairman William Shawcross.

"We believe that this 'staggering' expenditure constitutes a clear breach of the 'duty of prudence' by the trustees of the RSPCA in that it cannot possibly be argued that charitable funds and assets have been used reasonably," they said.

The prosecution could have been brought more cheaply using in-house lawyers, they suggested.

"Instead, hundreds of thousands of pounds donated to the RSPCA by members of the public have been squandered unnecessarily."

The duty of prudence is not a legal requirement under the charities Act 2006 or other legislation.

A commission spokeswoman said: "At face value there's nothing we can see for us to take forward."

It said trustees had to act "in accordance with the charity's aims and powers, and acting prudently".

"Undertaking such prosecutions is in furtherance of the RSPCA's charitable objects and is made clear to the public on their website. It is for trustees to consider the matter of bringing prosecutions in accordance with these duties and any other requirements which might apply, and for them to consider the issue of costs."

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said its trustees had "acted entirely within the society's charitable objectives and procedures and charity law."

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  • Takeaway01  |  January 05 2013, 10:53AM

    The "multiple red arrow brigade" are out again...but can only think of one person who consistently hands out multiple red arrows. I wonder who that can be? Possibly the same person who does exactly the same on OTHER Thisis sites? Logically and sensibly, if a poster doesn't agree with another posters posting that's fine, but its worth discussing the differences. It is a pointless exercise with just disagreeing, but then have no substance for the disagreement. My thoughts are, if a poster just adds red arrows but is unable or incapable of making a challenge, that says more about the multiple red arrow brigade than he would like to reveal.

  • rayglos  |  January 02 2013, 6:00PM

    Revisting this site I was surprised by two things - 1) the happy new year wishes I recieved, so many thanks for them, and I also wish those people all the best for 2013. 2) that the hunting debate is still ongoing, having now turned mainly to the poll argument, so let me add my tuppence worth on that. Of course nationally they will probably always be in favour of anti-hunting, because it will mainly always be a town v countryside issue, and the former population is much larger. If I was a townie, and my only knowledge of fox-hunting was gleaned from images of a fox carcass being torn apart, aided by absurd propaganda, I would probably also have voted for the ban to remain. Lucklier I never took it at face value and looked into the wider issue, as did James Barrington, for those that dont know, he was directory of the L.A.C.S. He made the effort to go out to the hunts etc, and see what it was all about for himself, after doing so he realised what was best overall for the fox and became a pro-hunt campaigner. Action by such a former prominent anti-hunter like him speak louder than any words I can say. One other comment by Twain, although rather negative and childish so I won't dwell on it for long, was the remarks about hunting people, many also say the same about some of the hunt sabs, who in their combat jackets and hiding behind balaclava masks seem to think they are terrorists or the SAS - big difference, the SAS dont run home to mummy at the first sign of danger. I can only end this by re-iterating something I said in my previous letter, forget the class issue, polls, and other secondary points, all that should matter is whether foxes are better or worse off since the ban. Look into that with an open mind and you might be surprised at the outcome. You may still not like hunting, but you may at least realise it's better overall than the outcome from the increased alternative methods now being used to cull them.

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  • Takeaway01  |  January 02 2013, 2:40PM

    Wow, 5 red arrows without saying anything that can be perceived as controversial or challenged. I'm impressed :)

    |   -5
  • Takeaway01  |  January 02 2013, 11:51AM

    Charlespk quote: "And continually insulting people achieves nothing" - totally agree! To answer your question to "75% of the UK are against fox hunting", this was mistaken, in fact it was 76%: http://tinyurl.com/cb2hdzq Quote: "But 80% would certainly bring back hanging" - Who said so?? Anything recent??

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  • Charlespk  |  January 02 2013, 9:10AM

    Try http://tinyurl.com/9wz7o9x (open in a new window)

  • twain1  |  January 02 2013, 12:05AM

    Let's get to the core of the argument. 75% of the UK are against fox hunting. Despite the 2004 law the gruesome practise still continues. It's not policed. These animal abusers are the same supremacists who believe might is right. That's why the normal man in the street detest these Neanderthals. These people should not be allowed to walk the streets in our enlightened age. The Neanderthals that consider animals a fair target to abuse often target vulnerable humans for the similar treatment. It's about time these Neanderthals became extinct.

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  • Charlespk  |  January 01 2013, 8:32AM

    To all those who unfortunately can only wish they had more influence over reasoned and intelligent opinion. It's now 2013. . This is but another speck in time and really of no consequence. "All things have a second birth; the earthquake is not satisfied at once." . . . William Wordsworth 1770-1850

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  • 2ladybugs  |  January 01 2013, 12:04AM

    @eyeopener and a very happy and peaceful New Year to you also.

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  • eyeopener  |  December 31 2012, 11:59PM

    @2ladybugs May I wish you and your family regardless of any differences we may have a Happy & Prosperous New Year."

  • eyeopener  |  December 31 2012, 11:56PM

    @ Rayglos Thank you for your kind greetings. May I wish you and your family regardless of any differences we may have a Happy & Prosperous New Year.