Prosecuting animal crimes by Mark Randell.

Former Police detective Mark Randell has dedicated his life to fighting animal abuse, not just here in the United Kingdom, but across the world. Today, he writes in the Havering Daily about the prosecution of animal crimes.

In the United Kingdom, very generally speaking, the police are responsible for collecting evidence for a criminal case and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for deciding whether there is enough evidence to take the matter to court. Lesser crimes are tried ‘Summarily’at the Magistrates Court with the more serious crimes going to the Crown Court. These are called ‘Indictable’ offences. Some crime, such as Criminal Damage can be heard at either court, usually depending on how serious the matter is and whether the offender is more likely to be sent to jail for more than a few weeks or months. The laws in England and Wales vary from those in Scotland, and the processes are different. 

Subject to certain exceptions, private prosecutions can be brought for a wide range of offences where the CPS has not initiated criminal proceedings. Private individuals have the power to bring a prosecution and for many offences.

One example is the R.S.P.C.A. that of course is not a prosecuting agency but a Registered Charity. Private prosecutions are brought to court under Section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. (However, the Director of Public Prosecutions has a power under section 6(2) to take over private prosecutions if certain criteria are met.) In 2019 the charity achieved 1,432 convictions relating to animal welfare offences. That year they took 1,218,364 calls about animal cruelty. 

Police Forces tend to focus their resources on crimes that are deemed to be important by the Home Office, such as murder, sexual offences, burglary, robbery etc. Animal crimes are not a priority, despite the known link to human violence. Therefore, animal charities often are left to deal with these. This isn’t the case in areas of the world where I have been training, such as Greece and Ukraine where the police service is generally responsible for all offending. In Ontario, Canada there has been a recent change where animal crime that was the responsibility of Ontario S.P.C.A now rests with the police and from this, criminals who commit violence against both animal and people can be more easily identified. 

In June 2020 a plane flew from Ukraine into Toronto, Ontario carrying around 500 puppies from puppy farms in Eastern Europe. Tragically, 38 arrived dead and many too were seriously ill. Bizarrely, this was investigated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency despite it involving what would appear to be ‘organised trans-national crime.’

Puppy farming is huge business internationally and the criminals know that there are many gaps in its enforcement. That appeals to criminals, low risk and high return. With puppies retailing at several thousand pounds and little chance of getting caught, that is a risk worth taking. 

This January, Animal Protection Services (Registered Charity 1186401) launched a private prosecution against an unlicensed dog breeder in Suffolk, England. She was taken to court by ‘Phoenix Rehoming’ after she breached her adoption contract by failing to neuter her male and female dog brought to the UK from Romania.She had no licence to breed the dogs but allowed them to have a litter of nine puppies nevertheless, five of which were sold for £300 each. Phoenix Rehoming worked with Animal Protection Services to bring the private prosecution. She was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £230 towards the estimated £11,000 costs of the prosecution. According to the Daily Telegraph, the offender said, “It wasn’t made clear to me when I took on the dogs that the charity still owned them even though I had paid for them. I had all their paperwork and passports showing they had been imported from Romania so in my mind, they were entirely mine.”  

For anyone wanting to know the current legislation on breeding puppies, I’d recommend reading the Kennel Club website;

So, private prosecutions can work but it is important to note that there is no legal aid available for taking a private prosecution therefore you must be prepared to fund a prosecution yourself and costs can mount very quickly. 

What is particularly relevant about this case for me, is showing how small organisations can work together and support each other in tackling the growing desire to make money from illegal puppy breeding.

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