An English judge who questioned the “staggering” amount of money spent by the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) to prosecute a case against the Heythrop Hunt was criticized by his superiors. Although Justice Secretary Chris Grayling ruled out disciplinary action against District Judge Tim Pattinson, he recommended that the judge be given “informal advice” about expressing his “personal opinions” in court.
As reported in Foxhunting Life last December, the Heythrop Hunt, its former Master, and its former huntsman all pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful hunting after the court was shown film taken by anti-hunt monitors during the 2011/2012 season. The hunt was fined £4,000, Barnsfield £1,000, and Sumner £1,800. The court also ordered the hunt to pay £15,000 towards the RSPCA’s legal costs.
Considering that the RSPCA expended £330,000 to prosecute the case and that their funds are derived from public contributions, Judge Pattinson told the court he thought the charity’s resources might have been more “usefully employed.” Many believed the case to have been politically motivated to embarrass Prime Minister David Cameron who hunted with the Heythrop hunt before the ban.
After the hearing, Tory MPs accused the RSPCA of using prosecutions for “political campaigns.” But the judge’s comments infuriated animal rights protesters. RSCPA chief executive Gavin Grant defended the hunt’s prosecution and suggested that foxhunters should be jailed for up to five years, a sentence equivalent to killing a person by driving dangerously.
A spokeswoman for the judiciary said that, while the judge was entitled to make observations about the level of costs involved in the prosecution, comments about how RSPCA funds should or should not be used were personal and should not have been expressed.
Click to read John Bingham’s complete article in The Telegraph.
Posted June 12, 2013