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How we decide to prosecute

Illustration of The Trial of Bill Burn under Martin's Act © artist P. Mathews / RSPCA Photolibrary

To ensure we command and maintain public confidence, prosecutions are only brought by us following a consistent, fair and independent review of the evidence.


Our prosecutions team:

  • review the evidence in the case files submitted by our inspectors
     
  • work with our inspectors to resolve evidential or legal issues concerning cases
     
  • make the decision whether or not to prosecute individuals accused of offences relating to animals
     
  • instruct independent solicitors and barristers where necessary to further advise and present cases at court.


The Code for Crown Prosecutors

Our approach to prosecution reflects the principles of The Code for Crown Prosecutors.

The Code is a public document issued by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) that sets out the general principles to be applied when making decisions about prosecutions.

Read the Code in full at: www.cps.gov.uk


There are two stages to the Code.

  1. Evidential test
    Is there sufficient evidence ‘to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each defendant and on each charge’?
     
  2. Public interest test
    Where there is enough evidence, is it in the public interest to prosecute?

If a case file does not meet these tests, then the RSPCA will not prosecute.

Learn more about how we use the CPS' Code when deciding whether or not to prosecute:

Using The Code for Crown Prosecutors (PDF 24.9KB)


Will animals benefit?

In order to protect animals from future harm, our priority in many prosecution cases is for people who are convicted to be banned from keeping animals.*
 

This can only happen if a conviction is secured and the court decides that such a ban is appropriate.

When a conviction is secured, the court is then able to permanently confiscate animals. If signed over to our care we can then find them loving homes.

 

Read about just some of the animals we’ve helped through prosecutions in our  prosecutions annual report 2013.


*The term 'banned from keeping animals' means being disqualified from owning, keeping, participating in the keeping or being party to an arrangement which entitles a person from having control or influence over the way animals are kept.