Days after being the subject of two more hard-hitting BBC documentaries highlighting its serious flaws, the RSPCA's Prosecutions Department has experienced yet another serious reversal
The case took so long to determine - 18 months - that it could not be referred to in either Radio 4's "File on 4" or Five Live's "McIntyre".
Ludovic and Murvilla Kancels' pet dog Bully, three years old, was seized 18 months ago by the RSPCA and kept in an RSPCA secret "place of safety". The RSPCA's expert Martin Lawton claimed that the seized animal had "suffered unnecessarily" from thinness as a result of being "starved".
Defence vet Daniel Mackenzie-Frazer made clear Bully was not suffering. She was, in fact, feeding pups and this led to loss of condition. He said: "She was thin but not emaciated and followed her owner into the vets which she wouldn't have done if she was in considerable pain".
Mr Kancel had approached Oak Hill Vets the day before Bully was seized and asked for advice on feeding her. It was obvious that he cared deeply for her. Mr Mackenzie-Frazer added: "There has been no evidence of pain in this case. The dog was thin because she had just given birth to puppies and had dedicated her time to allowing them to feed rather than feeding herself".
However, the RSPCA, always hungry for a conviction, elected to rely on Martin Lawton. Both the Kancels, and Kino Hines, were charged with cruelty by starving Bully, perhaps the most serious and emotive animal welfare offence there is, and subjected to the usual media campaign against them.
Criticisms of Lawton made in other matters, in the proceedings against Newham pet-shop owner Simon Gilbert and Lawton's own admission of "reprehensible conduct" in disciplinary proceedings against him before the RCVS, were not disclosed to the defence or to the court.
However, Magistrates saw through the RSPCA's thin case. The submissions of the RSPCA's Solicitors Male & Wagland and Counsel Rex Bryan were, like Martin Lawton's evidence, not accepted.
The court found Ludovic and Murvilla not guilty of causing suffering, AND that there had been no suffering at all.
Bully must be returned and the RSPCA must pay the massive costs. Ludovic and Murvilla very much look forward to having Bully back, and getting to know her again.
After the case, RSPCA Inspector Dawn Avery, herself well-known to the SHG, said that she wanted to "rehome" Bully. Ms Avery said she was "unhappy that Bully spent 18 months in RSPCA kennels while the case was decided".
Ms Avery continued, ominously, that she would "try to monitor the situation and make sure that Bully is okay in the future". The charity paid thousands of pounds for "place of safety" kennels to ensure that Bully was kept away from Ludovic and Murvilla throughout the case.
The charity - given the new powers contained in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 - is perhaps therefore unlikely to leave the matter there.
Anne Kasica, of the SHG, said:
"Bully, happily, was not euthanized, and did not die in the RSPCA's kennel, as happened to Annette Nally's dog Holly. The vast resources spent every year by the RSPCA on its team of fat-cat lawyers, vets and 'place of safety' kennel-owners is sickening."
"The RSPCA says it's 'only' £8 million a year."
"Rex Bryan, Male and Wagland and RSPCA independent witness Martin Lawton have each earned a king's ransom from a series of RSPCA cases."
"I agree with Frank Field MP. It is time that each and every one of the RSPCA's decisions to cause misery is subjected to proper review by the CPS, not by lawyers who personally benefit from the decision to prosecute."
Ernest Vine, also of the SHG, said:
"The RSPCA's new Head of Prosecutions Phil Wilson is not even a lawyer and, after his shameful performance on File on 4, I don't think that the RSPCA should let him near any microphones for a bit."
"Sally Case was hopeless
, but Mr Wilson is worse. He is also continuing her policy of wasting RSPCA donations. There are defence and court costs to consider too."
"This ridiculous case about an allegedly thin dog took four days to present to the court. At £300 per hour - and some RSPCA lawyers get even more - each member of the RSPCA's legal team have billed £10,000 for court time alone."
"Martin Lawton is, of course, looking to have his costs of attending the trial for four days paid by the court, and therefore the taxpayer, as usual."