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RSPCA private prosecution collapse reinforces need for scrutiny of charity

Court Case Collapses on First Morning


An RSPCA private prosecution brought against a Cheshire hunt supporter, his partner and their nineteen year old daughter has collapsed on the first morning of a scheduled three day trial at Crewe Magistrates’Court.   

Keith Watson, a farmer, Tanya Norlander and Hannah Watson had been accused of interference with a badger sett on 16th February last year when Mr Watson was assisting the Cheshire Hunt . On the first morning of the trial RSPCA prosecutors admitted, despite knowing all the facts of the case for over a year, that there was no realistic prospect of conviction on the evidence and the case was dismissed. In March last year Mr Watson’s farm was raided by RSPCA employees and police officers who searched outbuildings and barns removing mole traps, clothes and Mr Watson’s legally held firearms.

The costs of the three defendants, which are likely to exceed £10,000, were awarded from ‘Central Funds’ which means the taxpayer will pay for the defendants costs as well as those of the aborted three day trial.

Tim Bonner, Director of Campaigns at the Countryside Alliance, said: “It is simply disgraceful that the RSPCA is using the criminal justice system to pursue a vindictive campaign against the hunting community. The Watson family have suffered more than a year of stress over a prosecution so unjustified that it fell apart within minutes of the trial starting.

“There is no way on earth that the police and Crown Prosecution Service would have prosecuted on such flawed and weak evidence, but the RSPCA pursued Mr Watson and his family simply because they were part of the Cheshire Hunt.

“Fundamental questions about the RSPCA’s use of private prosecutions were raised in the wake of the scandal over the £326,000 prosecution of the Heythrop Hunt. This case only reinforces the need for proper scrutiny of a charity which is using money donated to protect animal welfare to pursue a political, animal rights campaign.”

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