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RSPCA LEGAL ENQUIRY

www.smh.com.au/news/national/rspca-investigated-over-legals/2009/01/22/1232471495721.html

RSPCA investigated over legals   Lisa Carty 23 Jan  2009

THE RSPCA has defended itself against claims of impropriety after it was revealed it pays its NSW president and a director to conduct its legal work.

After complaints by a NSW MP, the society's chief executive, Steven Coleman, asked the Independent Commission Against Corruption for an opinion on its legal arrangements.

The Member for Barwon, Kevin Humphries, was angered by the treatment the RSPCA meted out to a constituent, Ruth Downey. He has asked ICAC to investigate the way the RSPCA runs its prosecutions. He told ICAC that Ms Downey had been prosecuted for animal cruelty relating to 48 drought-stricken cattle on her property at Pilliga in the state's far north-west.

She was found guilty but no conviction was recorded. She was, however, ordered to pay the $295,588.99 bill the RSPCA received from a St Marys law firm, Smythe Wozniak, at which the RSPCA's president, Andrew Wozniak, is a partner. The bill included about $70,000 for the fees and expenses of an RSPCA director, Paul O'Donnell, a barrister who assisted in the prosecution. Mrs Downey, 72, is appealing her conviction in the District Court.

In a letter, Mr Humphries told ICAC: "It is not acceptable, I believe, for directors of the RSPCA to be setting policy direction and also act in a remunerated prosecution capacity."

Mr O'Donnell refused to comment and Mr Wozniak did not return the Herald's call.
Mr Coleman said Mr Wozniak and Mr O'Donnell had done the RSPCA's legal work for many years. The Law Society and the Department of Gaming and Racing had been satisfied about the legal arrangement, he said.

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My Comment: The RSPCA prosecutes for Animal Cruelty as a Criminal Offence, which can carry a gaol sentence. All other  Criminal Trials are conducted by the Crown Prosecutor, who must be impartial.

A man tried for murder has the benefit of a jury. A person tried for animal cruelty does not.

A man tried for murder is not asked to pay the cost of his prosecution. Farmers are asked to pay for their prosecution.

Farmers suffer the loss of their stock.  They lose all their money spent on feed.  And do they get a fair trial when no photos are taken to substantiate claims that the animals were stumbling?