|WATCHDOG NEWSLETTER NUMBER 41 MAY 1994
TEL: 0293 786166
RSPCA COUNCIL DECISION QUASHED BY HON MR.
RSPCA TO PAY COSTS OF LEGAL ACTION
Peter and Wendy Clarke and Bryan Harvey, Officers of the Wakefield Branch have been successful in THEIR Judicial Review legal action against the RSPCA. On March 24th 1994, the High Court Judge quashed the Council’s ruling which had removed them from office and awarded costs to the three.
Peter Clarke is a senior Police Officer with eight commendations, his wife Wendy is well known for her devoted hard work for animals and Bryan Harvey is a Bank Manager with Barclays Bank plc. They courageously took on the RSPCA knowing the risk they ran of incurring liability for ruinous costs. We congratulate them and their solicitor DAVID RUSSELL for his brilliant handling of the case.
The total cost of this litigation for the RSPCA will be not less than £100,000. This has been realistically estimated as
£40,000 plus for David Russell’s firm’s costs.
£45,000 plus for the RSPCA London solicitor’s costs.
£25,000 AT LEAST for the two RSPCA solicitor’s costs which have to be costed for audit.
BY JANUARY 1993, the RSPCA KNEW that the validity of the Society’s Rules were in doubt because they had not been ratified as required by section 10 of the 1932 Act of Parliament. If the RSPCA had admitted it earlier then £100,000 of the Society’s funds might have been saved.
DID COUNCIL MEMBERS KNOW THIS? IF NOT WILL SOME HEADS ROLL?
Even now, David Russell is having to take similar legal action in respect of the Newcastle Branch.
AT THE VERY LEAST we would have expected to learn of the resignation from the Council of
MRS. JOAN FELTHOUSE CHAIRMAN OF THE INQUIRIES COMMITTEE and
MR. ANELAY HART Regional Representative for the Wakefield area.
We would also expect to have heard that council members had called a Special Meeting to discuss these matters AND the position of HQ staff and Regional staff concerned.
Council members would to well to remember the comments of Peter Clarke.
"IT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. WENDY PARTICULARLY HAS BEEN THROUGH HELL. IT HAS MADE HER ILL."
Council members might also LIKE to hear the complaints about Mrs. Felthouse made on 13/8/92 from four branches in Group 1 Region 8.
And what of the Director General? What did he call the failure to comply with the Section 10 of the 1932 Act of Parliament?
‘A CONSTITUTIONAL TECHNICALITY’
Rather an expensive £100,000 technicality was it not?
We find this difficult to understand. The Act is quite clear
- it says
|10. ‘The rules of the Society shall be those set out in the schedule hereto. Provided that the Society may from time to time by resolution passed in accordance with the rules of the Society make rules in addition to the rules so set out and may in like manner alter amend or revoke any rule so made or so set out but no such additional rule alteration amendment or revocation which affects either directly or indirectly the property or funds of the Society shall be valid or effectual unless or until the same has been confirmed by an order of the High court of Justice or a judge thereof or by an order of the Charity Commissioners. Provided also that no rule so made and no such alteration or amendment shall be repugnant to the provisions of this Act or of the general law.’
Quite simple isn’t it? So why was this not carried out as a matter of course? Did the Director General know about this section of the 1932 Act and if not WHY NOT?
No unpaid school governor would be excused for failing to carry out the instructions in the Education Act. So can there be any excuse for highly paid Chief Executives of the RSPCA (or if it comes to that CHAIRMEN of the RSPCA Council) not being acquainted with this founding Act of Parliament?
THE PROMOTION OF KINDNESS TO ANIMALS? PART I
Towards the end of January this year, a letter was received from Angela Turvey of Reigate asking for help in opposing a licence being given to Pet City (a pet superstore due to open in Redhill Surrey) to prevent the sale of dogs/puppies and cats/kittens. Margaret House wrote immediately to her local Borough Councillor as well as a very polite letter to
MRS E. UNMACK Regional Representative on the Council for Region 2
asking if the local Branch Committee (of which she is a committee member) had objected. Borough Councillor Chris King replied AT ONCE but as you may have guessed
MRS. E. UNMACK DID NOT AND HAS NOT REPLIED. WHY????
Undeterred by the bad manners of Mrs. Unmack - Margaret House visited Pet City on March 1st.
At the end of the huge superstore were caged:-
Marmosets, Chipmunks, Guinea Pigs, Rabbits, Chinchillas, Gerbils,
Iguanas, lizards, geckos, green toads -
Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatiels, Mynah Birds, Quail and many other birds -
Locusts, Crickets, Cockroaches, Bird Eating Spiders and A very large number of fish in aquaria.
Watchdog has been told that MRS. UNMACK approves of Pet City as a ‘STEP FORWARD’ from individual Pet Shops. Council members might like to discuss this view with Mrs. Unmack.
We view PET CITY as a tragedy. Is it a ‘STEP FORWARD’ for children to grow up seeing animals and birds caged in a supermarket merely for the pleasure of insensitive humans? We thing - larger is NOT better.
A local animal rescue group ‘THE ANIMAL PROTECTION TRUST’ says in its Annual Report:-
‘Several rabbits, ferrets and cockatiels have been found, unfortunately owners rarely come forward to claim them’
WHY SHOULD THEY? THEY CAN ALWAYS GET ANOTHER FROM YOUR LOCAL FRIENDLY SUPERSTORE.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF SUPERSTORES FOR PETS?
A PARROT that swears and a tarantula were among thousands of pounds worth of exotic animals snatched in a raid on a pet supermarket within just seven weeks of it opening.
The thieves smashed through a rear wall at Pet City in Brighton Road, Redhill, early on Friday. Two bird-eating spiders, scorpions and an iguana were also taken, along with two corn snakes a cockroaches.
WHAT ARE MRS. UNMACK’S VIEWS ON THIS NEWS ITEM?
THE PROMOTION OF KINDNESS TO ANIMALS? PART II
In a letter to Dave Wetton, Mrs Renee Sheel, Secretary of the RSPCA Northumberland West Branch wrote:-
‘The hunting fraternity are useful to the RSPCA ......... We also get financial support from them.’
Has the world gone mad? Why does an RSPCA receive finance from blood sports? The RSPCA policy on hunting is clear -
THE RSPCA IS OPPOSED TO ANY HUNTING OF ANIMALS WITH DOGS.
Miss Shiel concludes her letter by saying:-
‘I may also tell you that the Director General is in [possession of the facts.’
IF the Director General IS in possession of the facts - what has he done about it? Or, once again, has it been left to Watchdog to let Council members know information they should have been given?
THE PROMOTION OF KINDNESS TO ANIMALS? PART III
Watchdog has received numerous complaints about the role of the RSPCA in prosecutions taken under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
We UNDERSTAND THAT RSPCA Inspectors are not allowed to appear as prosecution witnesses when a dog is on trial for its life under the DDA.
BUT WHY WERE THEY EVER ALLOWED TO DO SO IN THE FIRST PLACE?
At the very first meeting on June 16 1824 of what was to become the RSPCA, Richard Martin, one of the Founders is quoted as saying:-
‘The Society would not primarily exist to prosecute offenders. It would be ill judged for it to become known as a prosecuting Society. The prime aim should be to alter the moral feelings of the county.’
On June 12 1990, the Wall Street Journal published a report on RSPCA Inspector Jan Eachus (whose name was to become closely associated with prosecutions taken under the Dangerous Dogs Act) Tony Horwitz wrote:-
|‘The English worry more about the
welfare of poor little pooch than they do about the safety of Joe Public’
says Mr. Eachus, an American who has been living in England since 1977.
He doesn’t hesitate to get tough with both mad dogs and Englishman. The
chain smoking Inspector has shot two dogs to death and donned riot gear
to take in many others. In his van he carries a forensic kit containing
a magnifying glass, cameras and tweezers to collect evidence such as dried
blood and dogs hair fur use in prosecuting owners.
"There’s no room for amateurism here" says the veteran enforcer.
Some say such gladiators are barking up the wrong tree. "If you approach a pig bull looking like a creature from Mars he’s more likely to go berserk and bite you" says Kevin McNicholas, a veteran London Dog Warden. In eight years of service he hasn’t been bitten.
Jan Eachus is also quoted as saying to a caged dog under sentence of death
‘SEE YA IN DOGGY HEAVEN’
Do you think this is a good image for a Society whose aim is to promote kindness to animals? The Society WAS founded to worry about the welfare of animals, there are other charities whose role is to worry about ‘Joe Public’ and there are the police to enforce the law.
Kindness to animals can only be achieved by education and education must start
IN THE SCHOOLS
Education of children and the provision of a strong Education Department should have been a priority. Too much money is spent on very high salaries for HQ senior staff, on Regional Managers, on Branch Coordinators, Freedom Foods, trips abroad, research grants and so on and so on. It is essential (to use an overworked phrase) to
GO BACK TO BASICS ie
2. PREVENTION of cruelty.
Education a priority. It is not just the unsuitability of keeping dogs cooped up in flats with little food and less exercise, it is the sheer ignorance of the owners which upsets Harrison. "It’s pathetic, pathetic," he repeats.
EDUCATION A PRIORITY
Watchdog received from a supporter in Brixham, some education material that the NFU SW Region is putting into schools. We photocopied the booklets and gave them to a Council member to bring to the attention of the Education Committee. Here are two extracts:-
‘Convince your teacher why a hen would make the ideal classroom pet.’
‘The modern cage system meets effectively the needs of the laying hen. The birds are kept in small groups which prevents aggressive behaviour etc.’
REFLECTIVE HALTERS ON DARTMOOR PONIES
Mr. Lewis Page, Council Representative for the SW has sent the following information to Watchdog:-
‘Reflective halters were tried out on the Dartmoor ponies but, being wild creatures, the halters became caught on every type of projection. Eventually they were seen as equally hazardous to the traffic.’
We know that there are some Council members who strongly disapprove of Watchdog and we also know that in 1988, when she was Chairman of Council, Joan Felthouse circulated a letter to all members criticising Watchdog. HOW MUCH DID THIS COST we wonder? This of course did not have the effect she had anticipated. So many members contacted Watchdog with their complaints about the Council that Watchdog’s future was assured.
We feel that with many new members on the Council, it is worth recalling why Watchdog was started in 1987. It was simply because we were sickened by the treatment of voluntary workers and we wanted to give them support.
On page 3 of this newsletter we have quoted Richard Martin as saying about the Society:-
‘It would be ill judged for it to become known as a prosecuting Society’
Yet THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT HAS HAPPENED
The saddest part of Watchdog’s work has been to read and listen to the heartbreaking accounts of members’ treatment by the Council. When Peter Clarke said about his wife "Wendy particularly has been through hell. It has made her ill." He was only echoing what many members have told us. In 1987, Sally Whyte, Secretary of a disbanded committee said
"The axing of the Essex NE branch of the RSPCA is the final injustice ... commercialism without compassion is a chilling thought and nothing and no one will ever stop me caring for animals."
We appeal to those Council members who have open minds to call a halt to the cruel treatment of members and to make the others realise the distress they are causing.
If you believe in democracy and fairness - practise it. There will then be no need for Watchdog. Open up Council meetings and instruct your staff to be less arrogant.
RSPCA in turmoil on threat to funds
By Ben Felton and Hugh Muir
The RSPCA is facing a legal bill estimated at £100,000 after three volunteers forced the charity to admit its disciplinary rules were invalid.
The charity, with an income of £32 million last year, now faces the probability of legal action from individual members and complete branches disciplined in recent years.
Doubt has also been cast on the validity of a controversial restructuring of the society in 1989 because of the legal action by Mr. Peter Clarke, a police inspector, his wife Wendy, and Mr. Bryan Harvey, a bank manager, all committee members of the Wakefield branch.
The three were at the centre of an internal hearing in a dispute over an extension to the branch’s animal welfare centre, and were subsequently told to resign.
They were granted leave to seek judicial review by Mr. Justice Hidden last June. Although the society’s solicitors conceded last month that the rules were invalid, the formal announcement that the Clarkes and Mr. Harvey had won their case did not come until last Thursday, the day when the judicial review was due to begin.
Members of the charity’s ruling council; were called to a hastily arranged meeting last month at the RSPCA’s headquarters in Horsham, Sussex, and told that the legality of many actions since 1932 was in doubt, an RSPCA source said.
Mr. Clarke, 47, said yesterday: "It is a victory for all volunteers, but it is a Pyrrhic victory - we would much rather this money went towards animal care."
Mr. David Russell, the solicitor for the three, said yesterday that members of the council may be personally liable to pay the costs of the lengthy action.
Last year the entire Newcastle branch was disbanded and has not contacted Mr. Russell seeking legal redress from the society. Other branches to be closed include Gwent and Mid Glamorgan, and the committee of the Colchester branch.
One council member expelled from the society was Mr. Robin Webb, now official spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front, who said yesterday he would seek to regain his seat.
A spokeswoman yesterday read out a statement saying the RSPCA has reached agreement in principle with the solicitors acting for the Clarkes and Mr. Harvey.
She added that as the settlement of the action had not been formally "sealed" by the court, the society was "not at liberty" to say more.
But one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It was made clear that the organisation was in awful trouble and the only winners if it all got out would be people who exploit animals.
"The advice is confused but we could now be open to all sorts of claims."
The legal turmoil for the RSPCA, which has had to face internal dissension over policy and administrative changes, began after the Clarkes and Mr. Harvey were brought before the council over the running of the Wakefield branch.
The dispute followed the branch’s decision to build an extension to its animals welfare center. But a legacy expected to pay for it came too late for the end of the financial year and the branch was unable to meet its annual dues of around £4,000 to the charity’s head office. When the three, on legal advice, declined to turn up for their hearing, the council heard the case in their absence and required them to resign from the branch.
But Mr. Clarke, an inspector in the West Yorkshire police force’s internal discipline office, objected to his treatment and decided to seek a judicial review.
As Mr. Russell prepared papers for the case, he wrote to the society’s solicitors in Jan 1993 asking them to prove the validity of all alterations and amendments to the society’s rules made since the original 1932 Act that established the RSPCA.
Under Section 10 of that Act, any rule changes have to be confirmed by a High Court judge or by the Charity Commission. The Clarke-Harvey case continued in preparation, but the society did not produce the proof.
It was not until Feb 8 this year, shortly before the judicial review hearing was due to start, that solicitors for the RSPCA admitted that the rules under which the Clarkes and Mr. Harvey had been disciplined were not valid because the confirmation had not been obtained.
The society agreed to pay the trio’s costs and last Thursday Mr. Justice Schiemann made an order of certiorari in the High Court quashing the disciplinary action, effectively reinstating Mrs. Clarke as secretary, his wife as homing co-ordinator and Mr. Harvey as treasurer. The judge also ordered the society to pay the Clarke-Harvey costs.
The society has already rectified the problem with the rules by obtaining the Section 10 confirmation from the Charity Commission. But members and branches disciplined under the flawed regulations could now turn to law, threatening further drains on the charity’s funds.
Mr. Russell criticised the society for delaying their admission that the rules were invalid, and added that the failure to get confirmation of changes also meant that a reorganisation of the society’s structure in 1989, taking power away from RSPCA branches and creating larger regional organisations, may also be invalid.
Last week the RSPCA reached an out of court settlement with Mr. Clarke and his fellow committee members: his wife Wendy, and a bank manager, Bryan Harvey. They are to be reinstated to their former branch positions and receive legal costs. No damages are to be paid.
Their solicitor, David Russell, said the settlement gave a green light for further test cases against the charity’s ruling body. He would be presenting details of the challenge from a former member of the disbanded Newcastle branch.
He said the significance of the challenges went far beyond a procedural flaw. "The central body’s actions have been detrimental in Newcastle and other local areas to the welfare of animals, which is what this should all be about."
Yorkshire Evening Post
Mr. Russell said the ruling entirely vindicated the trio’s decision to fight the RSPCA, irrespective of cost.
"This is a victory for all RSPCA volunteers. It is the volunteers who do the work, finding homes for stray animals, raising the necessary funds and coping with all the attendant hardship.
"Yet remarkably, it is the volunteers who have suffered most when they have found themselves on the wrong side of the paid officers and council of the RSPCA.
"This has been a hard and regrettably very, very expensive lesson for the administrators of the RSPCA."££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££££
Yorkshire Evening Post
Mr. Clarke today described the court’s decision as "brilliant." He said: "It should never have happened. Wendy, particularly, has been through hell. It has made her ill. But now we have been vindicated and the RSPCA has been found to be in breach of its own rules.
"We are absolutely delighted and are looking forward to getting on with our jobs as though it had never happened and continuing until the AGM in June."
The Sunday Times
Inquiry urged into cash mountain as animal cruelty reaches record
by Adrian Marks and Sean Ryan
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is facing demands for an inquiry into the salaries of senior officials and the accumulation of reserve funds totaling £75m.
members of the charity’s governing council have accused headquarters staff of running a burgeoning bureaucracy and allowing the reserve to spiral out of control while volunteers struggle to raise money for animal welfare.
They will demand an explanation from RSPCA financial managers this week when the charity announces that cruelty complaints have soared to a record 91,176 in the past 12 months.
Anger at the millions held in RSPCA accounts has been compounded by documents leaked to The Sunday Times which reveal that the salaries of its five-strong executive and four secretaries came to £259,533 in 1993. The RSPCA spent proportionately more on administration last year than any of the other top 10 fund-raising charities. Bureaucracy swallowed £2.9m, 8.6% of its budget, nearly twice as much as the National Trust.
This weekend Bill Jordan, deputy treasurer, called for greater openness in RSPCA management. "I am concerned about the level of reserves," he said "There will have to be some kind of review. They are not going to be able to walk away from this."
Sid Jenkins, the RSPCA’s former superintendant whose work was featured in the television series Animal Squad, said he was amazed that reserves has swollen by £30m more than intended. "To be sitting on this sort of money is a scandal,. It should be spent on animals."
The attacks come at a sensitive time in the 170-year history of the world’s largest animal welfare charity, which was forced to admit last month that it had acted unlawfully in suspending a branch committee and locking its members out of their office in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.
The officials - a police inspector, his wife and a bank manager - were accused of administrative errors and disciplined under rules which the RSPCA now admits were invalid. The handling of "the Wakefield three" was condemned by Lord Houghton of Sowerby, a former RSPCA vice-president, who said it showed the charity was "not a democratic organisation".
Solicitors predict that the case will trigger a barrage of legal challenges from up to 18 other branches where members claim to have been victimised or expelled. David Russell, acting for several disillusioned supporters, said the RSPCA could face costs of £2m.
The charity has already spent £4m on a reorganisation that created 10 regional centres. Branch officials say it has proved so expensive to maintain that one of the new centres may have to close. They claimed that the RSPCA had become top heavy with well-paid administrators.
The £242,461 pay of public relations staff outstripped the £219,075 earned by those working from headquarters on animal welfare, including veterinary experts, staff at Heathrow airport and the co-ordinators of clinics and homes.
Angela Walder, a candidate for elections to the ruling council next month, said the organisation was floundering: "It is failing to concentrate on the welfare of animals. It needs a new philosophy."
The criticisms were rejected by the charity’s directors, who said its reorganisation had been "money well spent by any standards" and its staff earned significantly less than they could in the private sector. "We aren’t that interested in what people earn." said Stuart Harrop, director of legal services. "We are here for vocational reasons."
Mark Watts, financial services director, said the proportion of spending devoted to administration rather than animal welfare was "reasonable". But he admitted that the growth of reserves had been "partly accidental" caused largely by an unforeseen increase in legacies.
It has gone far beyond a target of £45m, a sum that would enable the RSPCA to maintain operations for 18 months, including the work of 300 inspectors, 48 animal homes, 32 clinics and 24 animal welfare centres. Plans have been drawn up to use the extra £30m to expand its network of animal homes over the next four years.
Despite its reserves, the charity is urging supporters to continue making donations in response to emotive advertisements highlighting the plight of abandoned and abused animals. Officials claim it would have to close within two years if its income dwindled to nothing.
However, Dr. Robin Pellew, director of the World Wide Fund for Nature, which has reserves of only £2.5 m, said the RSPCA did not appear to have made "appropriate" use of its money. "If I was trying to identify which charity I would put my money in, I would be looking for one that was effective but wasn’t sitting on a cash mountain," he said.
RSPCA sources dismissed claims of discord between headquarters in Horsham, West Sussex, and volunteers at branch level. They described as nonsense the forecast of a £2m legal bill, and denied that anyone had been treated unfairly.
Wendy Clarke, one of the victors in the Wakefield court case, maintains the charity has lost its way. "What these people did to me after 10 years of caring for animals was disgusting. They have taken the life out of me." she said.
‘If I was trying to identify which charity I would put my money in, I would look for one that was effective but not sitting on a cash mountain’
A little light relief
‘I do not mind protesters coming ... you never know, they might come and join in.!
The call by Bill Jordan for greater openness in RSPCA management is wholeheartedly supported by Watchdog.
LET IT START with a proper FULL LENGTH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING, a review of the DIRECTOR GENERAL’S ,management of the RSPCA AND the treatment of voluntary workers.
TOO MANY PEOPLE HAVE SUFFERED and Watchdog is committed to seek justice for all.
Thank you for all your generous support and kind words. We acknowledge with gratitude the generous grant from the NORMAN FAMILY.
Come and talk to us at the AGM and celebrate 7 years of WATCHDOG kept going in spite of expulsion, and not forgetting the boost we cot following Mrs. Felthous’s circular letter.
|Back to Archive Index