22 July 2009
The Guardian reports that "RSPCA to prosecute officer who left police dogs to die in hot car."
"A police dog handler who left two alsatians to die in a car during the recent heatwave could face up to six months in jail and a £20,000 maximum fine after the RSPCA confirmed today it would prosecute the case.
A magistrates court summons is due to be served against the officer after the case was assessed by the charity's prosecution department, the spokesman said. A conviction under the Animal Welfare Act [most probably section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006] would mean the handler could be banned from keeping animals."
The RSPCA explain that they undertake private prosecutions and they have "no special powers to help it do this."
They go on to say that, "[e]veryone in England and Wales has the right to bring a private prosecution against someone who they believe has committed an offence. This right exists in common law and is preserved by section 6(1) of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The Law Commission reporting in 1998 said, "The right of private prosecution is an important element in the rule of law"."
The RSPCA goes on to explain that they apply the full code test that originates from section 10 of the Prosectution of Offences Act 1986. This is the same test that is applied by the CPS.
The story raises a couple of questions: would the CPS prosecute in the absence of the RSPCA? Ie would they apply the prosecutor's test in the same way as the RSPCA? Will the CPS take over the prosecution? Will the police officer accept a caution before he is prosecuted?