Tuesday, 25 November 2008


I read with interest the article "Maltreatment of Animals"
I am a Franchised Criminal Solicitor who is also a member of the NSA and I have a small farm at the foot of the Sussex Downs. Being a Franchised Criminal Solicitor means that I am approved by the Government for a contract to supply criminal defence services, which means that I provide those services under the Legal Aid System. Whilst I agree with the general advice given of seeking advice and help from a solicitor at the earliest opportunity, that advice should be taken a stage further.
Obviously RSPCA prosecutions are extremely stressful and distressing for those on the receiving end. However the article fails to mention what I consider the most important point. An RSPCA prosecution is a criminal one. As a result, if you are convicted the repercussions can be disastrous because of the draconian powers that the magistrates have by way of disqualification from keeping animals and, in the worst cases, imprisonment. It is my view therefore, being a criminal lawyer of twenty-seven years admission, that whilst you need to seek expert advice, the solicitor that you have used all your life to deal with family matters and aspects such as conveyancing may not necessarily be the best person in these cases as he may not have the experience to deal with an RSPCA prosecution.
When the RSPCA appear at you gate, you need the expert advice of a Franchised Criminal Lawyer. Not only will he be familiar and have the skills to deal with the RSPCA and the police, but he will also have the added benefit of being able to provide you with his services under the Legal Aid Scheme. You will therefore not have to fund your defence - it will effectively be free. As a result of the Human Rights Act coming into force in this country, Crimi8nal Legal Aid is no longer means-tested and is not dependent upon your financial situation. In my experience all RSPCA prosecutions attract Legal Aid because of the serious nature of those prosecutions, the expertise needed to defend them, and the serious punishments the Court can impose if convicted.
Criminal Defence Solicitors who are contracted to the Government advertise this fact in the local press and in Yellow Pages, but if necessary you should contact either the Law Society or the Legal Services Commission direct who will supply you with a list of solicitors who have a Criminal Defence Contract. However, you should go one step further and ask whoever you contact whether they have defended an RSPCA prosecution before. This is a specialist area that requires specialist skills and there will be a solicitor in your area who is both franchised and has experience in dealing with the RSPCA.
If you are represented by a Franchised Solicitor, the added stress of continuing to try and find money to fund your defence privately will not be an issue. Defending RSPCA prosecutions is expensive because it requires the instruction of numerous experts. The trial by its very nature can last several weeks. The worry of funding your defence is therefore removed which relieves you of that added burden. I have heard of some farmers who have been forced to remortgage their premises to pay their solicitors when the chances are that a Franchised Solicitor who is an expert and is approved by the Government to do such work has been practising in their locality.
There are other aspects of the article that I disagree with. For instance, in my experience the RSPCA do not enter into a dialogue - the first you know about them is when they seize your animals. My advise is fairly simple; don't talk to the RSPCA about any allegations unless in the presence of a Franchised Criminal Solicitor, endeavour to keep the RSPCA off your property, remember they have no right to enter unless in the company of the police and, most importantly, try to avoid the animals being seized by the RSPCA. Unfortunately that is normally unavoidable as the first you will know about their interest is when they are in the field rounding up your animals in the company of the police. It is then absolutely vital that you contact an expert because those animals will have to be seen by your independent expert vet or nutritionist within the first twenty-four hours. Unfortunately this is not covered by Legal Aid and this is one expense you will have to be responsible for but it is vital to the conduct of any defence that a independent vet and any other appropriate independent expert does see them.
Nigel WellerSolicitors
East Sussex

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