Monday, 23 August 2010
ARRESTED FOR NOT GIVING AN INTERVIEW TO THE RSPCA
Norris Atthey is a retired military policeman who for some years has been trying to defend one of the last pockets of red squirrels left in England , around Morpeth in Northumberland (see his website, Morpeth Red Squirrels). He does so by destroying the grey squirrels which across most of the country have seen off their red cousins, not least by infecting them with a fatal disease, squirrel pox. There used to be a bounty on them and it is still an offence to release them into the wild, since they are officially vermin. After trapping them, Mr Atthey has quite legally shot hundreds with an air pistol, very much more humane than hitting them over the head in a sack, as Natural England and other wildlife bodies prefer.
Mr Atthey was outraged when a Burton window cleaner was recently given a criminal record and lost £1,547 in costs after being prosecuted by the RSPCA for drowning a grey squirrel. He publicly challenged the charity by announcing that he had drowned one too. The ever-zealous RSPCA rose to the bait, knocking on his door to demand an interview. He responded that he had no more to say, beyond his published statement. Next morning, the RSPCA official returned, summoning two policemen to arrest Mr Atthey for “causing unnecessary suffering to an animal”. He was handcuffed and taken to the police station at Bedlington, some miles away, where he was held for nine hours in the cells. Eventually he was interrogated for an hour by an RSPCA official, with a policeman standing mutely by, before being released.
Why was Mr Atthey arrested on the orders of the RSPCA? Why was he handcuffed, and imprisoned for nine hours? When I put this to Northumbria police, they replied that “the RSPCA is leading this investigation” and that “the arrested man remained with police until suitable arrangements were in place for an interview to take place”.
This provokes much wider questions, also raised by other cases reported in this column, such as that of Alan Brough, who was held by Carlisle police for six hours while the RSPCA took away his 90 fell ponies, and who immediately went and hanged himself.
The RSPCA, that once-admirable charity, now often seems to pursue animal-lovers through the courts simply to win the publicity that keeps its £115 million a year in donations rolling in. And why do the police now regard themselves as the charity’s enforcement wing? What an admission from Northumbria police that they seek to justify holding a 66-year old man of impeccable character for nine hours by saying “the RSPCA is leading this investigation”. When did Parliament empower RSPCA officials (all ordinary members of the public) to order our police around like this? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/7958103/Arrested-for-defending-the-red-squirrel.html