The Blackmail inherent in the Plea Bargain

There is going to be lots of hate blowing in the wind over the Fairbrother case, mainly because so much of the detail will never be told.

This quote from the article in particular needs an explanation because so few people understand how an RSPCA prosecution (and very often a police CPS prosecution) pans out.

“What really disappoints me is that a number of charges have been dropped, how can you face 17 charges each and be allowed to plead to only a handful?”

A typical raid snatches as many animals as it possibly can. Then it works out what charges should be brought and who should be charged.

The charges can be divided into three categories. Sometimes they will consist of only one category, sometimes all three.

Firstly there are those charges that are going to be impossible to defend except by mitigation.

Secondly there are those charges that might result in a Guilty verdict but which for various reasons can be defended and might result in a Not Guilty verdict.

Thirdly there are those charges that are simply ridiculous but which are included because they can be bargained away. They are useful psychological tools in that they help to further terrify and overwhelm the Defendant and their legal / veterinary team.

The Defendants can be divided into categories too.

Firstly there is the person who is actually responsible for the animals and whatever has happened too them.

Secondly there will be anyone who might have lived on the premises or visited regularly. This second category will often involve vulnerable people, either the very elderly, children, people who are ill, or a spouse / partner who will lose their job if they are involved in an animal welfare case.

When a case goes to court and it becomes clear that someone is fighting back these lesser categories become very important.

In order to get a conviction the RSPCA will make an offer to deal.

“We will drop those charges in the third or even the second category if you plead guilty to some in the first or second category. “

Why would they do this?

It prevents the Defence team raising any legal arguments that might get the case struck out. Was the warrant properly obtained? Used? Did the seizure take place properly? Was it properly documented? Were there any questions relating to the expert veterinary evidence? etc.

it also prevents any problems that might have occurred with the animals while in RSPCA possession being brought into the public domain. Did the animals die? Were they attacked by other animals? Did they become ill or were they injured?

The deal might also include who is to be prosecuted.

“Plead Guilty to some charges and we will drop the prosecution against your child / sick parent / mentally ill sister / partner who will lose their job.”

The pressure on a Defendant who has been made an offer like this just before the case is about to start is immense.

Their legal team can not make the decision for them, only pass on the offer and tell them that courts might give a lesser sentence for a Guilty plea that saves court time.

For those who have to pay for their legal representation and who may well have lost their incomes because of the prosecution there is also the issue of costs to consider.  The costs of a full blown trial can run into many thousands of pounds.  Often far more than any fines are likely to be.  

So next time you see people wondering why charges are dropped or claiming that a Guilty plea means that the people involved must have done something wrong please explain the facts to them.

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I signed over my animal – How do I overturn it?

“I signed over my pets.  The RSPCA said I would be prosecuted/they would fetch the police/have me arrested/seize all my animals/notify social services and have my children taken away if I didn’t.  But I love my animals and want them back.  What can I do?”

These are some of the heartbreaking words that The SHG hears regularly on the helpline (0744 99 89 411).

The first thing to do is take legal advice from a solicitor who is a specialist in animal welfare law to ensure that you will not make matters worse.  Phone The SHG on 0744 99 89 411 and we will give you a list of solicitors.

Next you need to notify the RSPCA that you are rescinding the sign over.  The wording will be different if someone other than the owner signed the animals over.

Send the following e-mail to these e-mail addresses.  Fill in the details in the [brackets]

chris.sherwood@rspca.org.uk

enqserv@rspca.org.uk

ray.goodfellow@rspca.org.uk

and fax it to:

RSPCA fax no’s

0303 123 0100
0303 123 0284

The title is:

For urgent attention of the legal department – Rescinding signover

In the body write:

I rescind signover of the [animals] removed by the RSPCA from [wherever, whenever by whoever] on the grounds that it was done under duress when I was upset and had no benefit of legal advice or medical attention.

Yours sincerely

[Your name]

Or if someone other than you signed the animals over, in the body write:

I rescind signover of the [animals] removed by the RSPCA from [wherever, whenever by whoever] on the grounds that it was done under duress when the person who signed was upset and had no benefit of legal advice or medical attention and they had no authority from the owner to sign the animals over.

Follow up with hard copy by mail that has to be signed for to:

RSPCA Legal Department,
Wilberforce Way,
Southwater,
Horsham
RH13 9RS

The document you have signed is effectively a consumer contract.  If you had signed to buy double glazing you would have 14 days cooling off period in which you could rescind the purchase.  The reason for this is that people who sell items to you are considered to have too much influence when doing so in your own home or on the phone.

Now think about how much more influence the RSPCA have when demanding that you sign over your animals.

If the RSPCA do not respond either speak to your specialist solicitor or ring the Consumer Advice help line on 03454 04 05 06.

Contact the Charity Commission and tell them what has happened.  Stress that you are making a complaint about a charity whose actions are bringing charities into disrepute in the minds of the public.

Make an appointment to see your MP, your local councillors, any politicians you can access and ask them for help.

Consider talking to the local media.  Newspapers or radio are always on the lookout for local stories of interest.  Again, you should take legal advice before doing this to ensure that you are not damaging your case.

Finally, please let us know how you get on.  If you run into problems we will do our best to help.

 

How do I prove ownership of my animal?

One of the most difficult issues the SHG has to deal with is proof of ownership.  Animals stray or are stolen.  They end up in RSPCA possession and the RSPCA will not part with the animal.  Or they end up in the possession of an individual who claims that the animal is really theirs.

The police will not act, claiming that these issues are civil, an ownership dispute.

Most people cannot afford to pay a solicitor and there is no legal aid for this type of action.

So what can people do to ensure that they can prove ownership of their animals?

Whenever you transfer ownership of an animal also exchange receipts. Do this even if you give or receive the animal as a gift.

If the animal is going to be looked after for a period of time by someone else then get a signed agreement that details who is responsible for what. Especially in emergencies.   Who has to arrange vet care?  What if the animal strays?  Or the carer is taken to hospital unexpectedly?

You need to create a paper trail of responsibility and ownership.

You also need to create a photo-dossier showing the animal in your possession over its life.  Lots of photos, at least one a week with that day’s newspaper headlines in the photo and something else that is clearly your property or you also included.  Never part with these documents.  Try to keep copies away from home.

Remember that micro-chips are not proof of ownership.  They can also fail or move in the animal.

Consider getting your animals tattooed.  It is an obvious mark and as such is a deterrent.

Get a DNA profile of your animal.  A quick internet search for “DNA profiling of pets” will list many companies who will produce a profile and even store a sample of your animal’s DNA.  And as they say, unlike a micro-chip the DNA is tamper proof.  It cannot be removed or fail. It is not invasive and has no adverse health implications.

All of the above are relatively cheap and easy to do.  Especially when you think about how much it would cost if you ever had to fight to get your animal back.

Special relationship between the Fire and Rescue service and the RSPCA?

Writing in response to a criticism of the police for sending ten officers to rescue a confused seal by Richard Littlejohn, Chris Hobbs asked:

“In addition to the police, the fire brigade were also present. Should they have been or should they have been reserving their skills for real fires or pulling people out of road accidents?”

and went on to say:

“The emergency services refusing to help a stranded seal who eventually dies a slow and agonising death in a farmer’s field would be a master class of PR wouldn’t it?”

No mention of the self proclaimed emergency service for animals, the RSPCA. No question of where their trained seal experts had disappeared to, or why the money the public donates appears to have failed to produce an emergency RSPCA response service that can act without the need for police officers or members of the fire service to do the job for them?

There have been many criticisms of the special relationship between the RSPCA and the police.

For instance, the Wooler Report took on board the SHG submission and noted that the RSPCA ‘piggy backing’ on police powers by passes the important safeguards imposed on both local authorities and the police. Each has internal complaints procedures that culminate in independent external bodies, the IPCC and the local government ombudsman.

But what of the special relationship between the Fire Service and the RSPCA?

The Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA) has a Memorandum of Understanding with the RSPCA. The CFOA has committed to sharing the MoU, and encouraging its adoption, with every member of the Association who sit within every fire and rescue service within the UK.

Although the CFOA has no authority to ensure Fire and Rescue services compliance with the MoU it is clear that they are expected to adopt it.

Adherence to the MoU, which details how the Fire and Rescue Service can, if they deem it appropriate, charge members of the public for their services rescuing animals, but should never charge the RSPCA the full rate, have led to confusion and complaints that the Fire and Rescue service is wasting public money and resources by attending animal rescues at the behest of the RSPCA. On one occasion the Fire and rescue service sent two fire engines to provide light so that the RSPCA could continue an investigation in the dark. No-one thought to ask why an RSPCA investigation team had no lights or torches with them.

Some Fire and Rescue services are refusing to turn out to rescue animals unless they are asked by the RSPCA. Others say that the reason they undertake animal rescues is to prevent members of the public from attempting a rescue and putting themselves in danger.

All will turn out without being asked by the RSPCA if a member of the public is already attempting a rescue that could endanger them or is already in difficulties.

This raises an important question. Who should be responsible for Fire and Rescue Service policy in any local area? Unelected charities like the RSPCA and the CFOA deciding who will respond to calls for help from the public and who will pay? Or should local government make the decision?

Is this really the way the policies that govern our public services should be determined?

Slaughter for food? Only OK if the RSPCA do it.

The RSPCA have claimed that their opposition to a radio show holding a vote to decide whether a pair of turkeys should be slaughtered and eaten is because they oppose killing animals in entertainment.

Meanwhile the RSPCA Freedom Food scheme has many turkeys available ready killed on the supermarket shelves and according to Mia Fernyhough, RSPCA Farm Animal Welfare scientist, this is fine because the turkeys were given a better quality of life and so people wishing for a turkey dinner should choose Freedom Food turkeys.

Since the two turkeys who are the subject of the radio show are free range from Callow Farm, one has to wonder if the RSPCA’s objections are real or if they are a marketing ploy aimed at damaging the competition.

A more serious issue needs to be thought about.  How many people actually think about where their food comes from?  The radio show is trying to bring the reality home to people.

Roadkill fashion? Don’t do this at home

Reading about the latest fashion trend, roadkill fur,  reminded us of a case that came in to the SHG a long time ago.

An ex-squaddie suffered from combat stress resulting from the time he was serving in Aden and sent in to fire into a building that intelligence said was full of terrorists. He did and the bodies were all women and children.

In an attempt to try and stop the nightmares he started drinking.

He kept a few rabbits and one day found a dead fox that had been killed by a car. Thinking he could make himself a Davy Crockett hat the fox was skinned and hung to cure.

The RSPCA prosecuted on the grounds that even though these were domesticated rabbits they would be terrified of the smell of fox fur hanging in the same air space, as foxes are natural predators of rabbits.

The RSPCA eventually dropped the case, but not until they had put this poor man through utter misery to the point that we were on suicide watch.

He died of cancer a couple of years later, so the RSPCA can no longer hurt him.

Does the irresponsible importation of puppies and dogs by charities like the RSPCA endanger every dog in the UK?

Who would have thought that dogs are being regularly imported to the UK by the very British charities who are claiming that we have a massive dog overpopulation problem?

Since last February the Brighton branch of the UK animal charity the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has helped find new families for 114 stray and neglected dogs from a number of animal rescue associations in Portugal, having re-homed all but two of the dogs that were shipped there (to Brighton) over the past year.

The SHG has been informed that many rescues import dogs from abroad because there is a shortage of easily saleable animals (re-homeable for a fee).  Nevertheless, we were surprised to be sent proof that the RSPCA in Brighton regularly sells such imports via its branch rehoming facilities, not just from Portugal, but from Ireland as well.

Toby Portugal Liam Ireland Joy Portugal James Ireland Dave Portugal

 

German Shepherd Rescue have long argued that every rescue dog that comes into the UK from Ireland is a risk to the life of a rescue dog already in the UK.

Bizarrely the RSPCA has also stated that Irish animal welfare charities should stop sending unwanted dogs to Britain for rehoming, and David Bowles of the RSPCA said the influx was affecting the ability of British charities to find suitable homes for unwanted and abandoned dogs. “There are enough dogs in the UK that need rehoming. Around 10,000 dogs have to be euthanised every year due to lack of good homes in England and Wales alone,”

But now there is a far greater risk than an imported dog simply taking the home that would have been available for a British dog.  There are concerns that the risk of Rabies has risen and there is now the added risk of a dog carrying ebola entering the country.  If that happens the authorities would have no option but to cull every animal that might have come into contact with that dog or its contacts ad infinitum.

Would any responsible rescue continue the practice of importing dogs knowing the risks they are taking with the lives of every dog already in the country?

 

Has the time come to re-instate quarantine and suspend the pet travel scheme as the ebola epidemic spreads?

Few people could  fail to be sorry to hear that Excalibur, the pet dog of a Spanish nursing assistant who contracted ebola, has been killed in the interests of public health.  It becomes even more heartbreaking to read about how his owners had left him with a bathtub full of water and 30 pounds of dry food when they were taken away to be quarantined.

One wonders whether any of the protesters or the people who signed the petition aimed at saving Excalibur had thought about what would happen to all of the other animals in the country if there was a full blown outbreak of ebola.  Here in the UK it is almost certain that ebola or even rabies would lead to mass culling of animals as a precaution.

It is known that dogs can pass ebola on to people.

Thus, dogs
appear to be the first animal species shown to be naturally
and asymptomatically infected by Ebola virus.
Asymptomatic Ebola infection in humans has also been
observed during outbreaks (18) but is very rare. Although
dogs can be asymptomatically infected, they may excrete
infectious viral particles in urine, feces, and saliva for a
short period before virus clearance, as observed experi-
mentally in other animals. Given the frequency of contact
between humans and domestic dogs, canine Ebola infec-
tion must be considered as a potential risk factor for human
infection and virus spread. Human infection could occur
through licking, biting, or grooming. Asymptomatically
infected dogs could be a potential source of human Ebola
outbreaks and of virus spread during human outbreaks,
which could explain some epidemiologically unrelated
human cases. Dogs might also be a source of human Ebola
outbreaks, such as the 1976 Yambuku outbreaks in
Democratic Republic of Congo (19), the 1995 Kikwit out-
break, some outbreaks that occurred in 1996 and 2004 in
Gabon and Republic of Congo (5), and the 1976 (6), 1979
(20), and 2004 (21) outbreaks in Sudan, the sources of
which are still unknown. Together, these findings strongly
suggest that dogs should be taken into consideration dur-
ing the management of human Ebola outbreaks. To con-
firm the potential human risk of Ebola virus–infected dogs,
the mechanisms of viral excretion (i.e. body fluids and
virus kinetics of excretion) should be investigated during
experimental canine infection. This research would also
offer insights into the natural resistance of dogs.
Considering the dangers of diseases like ebola and rabies perhaps DEFRA should consider re-instating quarantine and suspending the pet travel scheme.  Unless of course we are prepared to see mass slaughter and animals and people dying of untreatable diseases?

The RSPCA is recruiting your children – and you don’t even know

Have you stopped to wonder why there have been so many reports of children raising money for the RSPCA this year?  It seems that the RSPCA wants your children and has pulled out all the stops to get them used to supporting and fund raising for the RSPCA while they are still young and impressionable.

What child aged between 6 and 12 could resist the challenge to become an “Animal Champion”?  Especially during the long and sometimes boring summer holidays?  What parent when faced with the demand for entertainment could resist a package deal of activities to keep their youngsters entertained?  This is the lure of the RSPCA Animal Champion scheme which is now recruiting chilren for its Christmas 2014 season.  So what’s the problem?

Not at all prominent is the fact that one of the five activities which can be chosen from a total of 17 is a compulsory “small fund raising challenge“.  In order to obtain the special Champion Fundraiser badge children have to raise over £50.  In order to obtain just the basic Animal Champion certificate and award they have to have completed the five challenges including the compulsory fund raising challenge.

Most parents and children will read about the scheme in the media. But much of the publicity for the RSPCA Animal Champion scheme fails to mention the fundraising part.   Can you imagine the harassed parent, especially one on low income, faced with a child who needs to complete their fundraising challenge to get the goodies that have been promised?  Especially if all of their childrens’ friends are taking part and peer pressure kicks in?

There are restrictions on how long and at what ages children can work.  Concerned parents might wonder if setting up small fund raising businesses with the pressure of achieving a target that will be virtually unattainable for most is the best way for their chidren to spend their holiday time.

Add to the scheme the RSPCA’s free lesson plans for teachers, their resources for school councils and even assemblies, and you can see that busy teachers are quite likely to gratefully grab ready made material that they don’t have to think too much about.

All of this is designed to capture the minds of your children.  To persuade them that they should support the RSPCA and accept what they are taught in RSPCA produced lessons.  Lessons that the RSPCA themselves claim are suitable to be presented in subjects as diverse as English, Science and Maths.

Remember that by the time children qualify for the Animal Champions scheme at age 6, or are being taught from RSPCA produced materials in school, they have already been softened up to believe “RSPCA is Good” via the various RSPCA books and toys aimed at very young children.

Do you think your children have a chance to resist RSPCA driven peer pressure to conform?  What are you going to do to help them think for themselves?

 

 

 

Copycat danger following Manchester Dogs’ Home fire publicity

Manchester Dogs’ Home will now rebuild following the fire that killed so many dogs.  Thanks to the pubicity and the generosity of the public over £1 million has been raised.

The publicity is, however, a double edged sword, increasing the likelihood of copycat attacks on any kenneling faciity, whether it is a rescue, a business or a private owner with dogs kept outside.

Everyone should re-assess their security measures.  More importantly everyone should re-assess their fire safety precautions.

What materials in the kennels would burn?  Can they be replaced?  Are there alarms, sprinklers and fire extinguishers present?

At least contact your local fire brigade and ask them to do an inspection and offer advice on how best to ensure the safety of your dogs.

Please raise this issue with any facility you know that kennels dogs (or other animals).