Animal Protection Services wishes to clarify its position on private prosecutions undertaken by, and on behalf of, the charity following adverse criticism on claims of "over-zealous prosecution" by our charity.
We have recently faced adverse criticism from the judiciary and the public in relation to prosecutions undertaken by, and on behalf of, our charity in respect of unlicensed breeding. In addition, adverse criticism was drawn to Parry and Welch Solicitors LLP, the legal advisers who acted in nearly all of our prosecutions.
Our charity was founded in November 2019. Its aims are to prevent and supress cruelty to animals. During the start up of the charity, we identified that the majority of complaints received from consumers who had purchased a poorly and unwell puppy were relating to unlicensed breeders. It was felt that tackling the root cause of the issue - the regulation of dog breeders - was in the best interests' of animal welfare. As such, the charity embarked on an operation to investigate, and wherever necessary and properly justified, prosecute those who were breaching the regulations. At all times, Animal Protection Services relied upon the legal advice from Parry and Welch Solicitors LLP.
During lockdown, the price of puppies had risen significantly. The demand for puppies was such that illegal smuggling of puppies was appearing to be a regular occurrence. Opportunists and organised criminals took advantage of the situation. Unfortunately, local authorities were unable to investigate the sheer volume of cases with their limited resources. We were receiving an increased volume of complaints in relation to the sale of sick puppies during lockdown with a common complaint being that puppies were sold without the necessary vaccinations resulting in death. If a breeder was licensed by the local authority, this would be unlikely to happen.
Any prosecution was commenced by laying an information with the Magistrates' Court. The Justices' Clerk (or a justice of the peace) then issues a summons. The decision whether to issue a summons is a judicial one, not an administrative one. As such, the summons and accompanying case file was subject to judicial scrutiny prior to the first hearing. We have not had an application for summons that has been rejected by the Magistrates' Court.
Furthermore, when files have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for adoption and discontinuance of proceedings, the CPS has to date refused to take over and/or discontinue any prosecutions instituted by our charity.
We strongly deny any allegation that we have acted improperly or maliciously. We maintain that the CPS Full Code Test was considered and met in all cases. We are not lawyers, but rather private animal welfare investigators, and therefore rely on the support of the qualified legal professionals to conduct our criminal proceedings.
In light of the circumstances however we will be conducting an internal review of our investigative processes. We will cooperate fully with any regulatory investigation to address any concerns. Furthermore, we are considering civil proceedings against our previous legal advisers Parry and Welch Solicitors LLP.