Monday, 20 May 2013


The RSPCA tried to ruin my life, says top barrister: A decade of accusations - and a £1m legal bill to defend his good name

  •  Jonathan Rich, defended hundreds of people against RSPCA over 20 years
  • Friend of Dawn Aubrey-Ward, 43, an RSPCA inspector turned whistleblower
  • She accused the charity of destroying her character
  • She was found hanged at her home this month

Cambridge-educated Jonathan Rich, who defended hundreds of people against the RSPCA over 20 years, said he has spent almost £1million defending professional allegations made by the charity
Jonathan Rich, Persecuted by the RSPCA
A leading barrister yesterday claimed he had been forced to stop working on cases involving the RSPCA because the charity tried to ‘ruin’ his life with spurious complaints.
Cambridge-educated Jonathan Rich, who defended hundreds of people against the RSPCA over 20 years, said he has spent almost £1million defending professional allegations made by the charity about his conduct.

He was a friend of Dawn Aubrey-Ward, 43, an RSPCA inspector turned whistleblower who also accused the charity of destroying her character.
She was found hanged at her home this month.
Yesterday Mr Rich, 46, said times had been ‘very tough’ and he might have suffered the same fate, were it not for his resolve and the love and support of his family.
‘I think the RSPCA were probably working on the basis that I wouldn’t be as strong as I proved to be,’ Mr Rich told the Daily Mail.
‘My insurers and I have spent a lot of money defending their claims and I’ve been through some very, very tough times, but I’ve got a  fantastic wife who has been very supportive and my family have got me through.

‘Other people faced with what I have had to contend with might well have killed themselves.
‘I am not ashamed to say I have been treated for reactive depression as a result of my ordeal. Two years ago I nearly died from a stress-related condition.’

Mr Rich, a contemporary of the Prime Minister at Eton and a Tory councillor, said problems began around 2003 when the  charity made the first of several formal and informal complaints linked to cases he was defending.
‘For two decades I had a superb track record, I won a lot of cases against the RSPCA, but it started to get vicious in the noughties,’ Mr Rich, a father of three, added.
‘I really believe everybody has the right to a defence and targeting a lawyer really is not a legitimate strategy. They set out  to ruin me.
‘While I would love to carry on I am very, very tired of fighting them. I felt I had no choice but to stop taking cases involving the RSPCA for my own well-being and that of  my family.’ 
Mr Rich’s comments will put further pressure on the charity, which has been criticised for recent high-profile, expensive legal cases and an aggressive publicity campaign. 
It is currently being investigated by the Charity Commission over its stance against badger culling and live animal exports.
Last November Gavin Grant, chief executive of the RSPCA, wrote a Twitter message to Mr Rich, saying: ‘Please remind me why you no longer defend animal abusers against RSPCA prosecutions? We’ve +98% success rate as you know.’
rspca page.jpg

The barrister, who also practises property and commercial law, said the tweet was indicative of an organisation that was concerned with animal rights ‘but has little regard for humanity’. 
In the past ten years the charity has made two direct complaints of professional misconduct against Mr Rich to the Bar Standards Board, while another nine have been made by people working on cases involving the RSPCA. The charity claims it played no role in these.
Mr Rich, who has never had a  single complaint made about his conduct by any other organisation or individual in 24 years at the  Bar, said all had been dropped,  dismissed or struck out and he had never faced a full hearing. Three remain active.
He and Miss Aubrey-Ward, whose character was publicly attacked  by the charity after she accused it of putting healthy dogs to sleep because they were deemed not suitable for rehoming, became friends because of their treatment by the RSPCA.
‘We were both going through the same sort of nightmare with the same assailant,’ Mr Rich said.
‘It was a relief for me to find  someone like her to talk to and she told me she felt the same. I feel a terrible sense of loss.’ 

A spokesman for the RSPCA said it made complaints only in ‘extreme circumstances and following established processes’. 
She added: ‘The RSPCA has secured nearly 10,000 convictions in the magistrates’ courts in the past three years alone and, to our knowledge, Mr Rich is the only  barrister the RSPCA has ever  complained about in terms of professional conduct.’
Last December the RSPCA was criticised by a judge after it emerged it had spent a ‘staggering’ £326,000 on a magistrates’ court prosecution against the Heythrop Hunt, David Cameron’s local hunt in Oxfordshire.
Earlier this month another judge said it had wasted court time in a case concerning a hunt linked to a pro-hunting Tory councillor. 
The legal action cost the charity £50,000 but resulted in two fines of just £300.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting how the RSPCA likes to boast about its 98% success rate. With legal action there is varying degrees of success. It is possible to prosecute and win but have the charges and punishment substantially reduced. To spend $200k for a $300 fine may look like a success to some.