Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fact check: RSPCA Prosecutions

The real news story about the RSPCA statistics for 2012 is the huge (57%) increase in the numbers of animals who had to be taken in.

The Times (and the Telegraph copying them) are confused about the differences between the number of cases [separate investigations considered serious enough to warrant passing to the Prosecutions Department], the number of people reported [one case might lead to several people being prosecuted if they were all involved in the incident] and the number of convictions [one person may be convicted of several offences, for example if all their dogs have been neglected].

Less than one per cent of cruelty complaints made to the RSPCA ended in someone being prosecuted — most situations were rectified by advice and practical help to animal owners.

Only 13% of calls to the RSPCA are cruelty complaints: most contacts are requests for help or advice.

I've clipped the relevant tables from the 2012 Prosecutions Report, the 2011 Annual Report and the 2012 Annual Report to show this in detail below.

In 2010 1.15% of cruelty investigations resulted in cases being sent up to the RSPCA's Prosecutions Department by the Inspectorate.

In 2012 1.39% of investigations resulted in cases being sent up: an increase, but a fairly modest one.

In 2010 the number of animals taken in by the RSPCA (for all reasons, not just cruelty) was 123,922.

In 2012 it was 194,695 - an increase of 57% and a huge extra strain on RSPCA resources.

  • In 2012 the Prosecutions Department made a decision to prosecute 53% of all people whose cases were sent up to it by the Inspectorate (in 2010 this was 48%). So the percentage of forwarded investigations resulting in prosecution has increased in percentage terms, but only very slightly over the 2 years.

  • The number of individuals whose cases were sent up by the Inspectorate rose by 14.5% between 2010 and 2012 (number of individuals is greater than the number of cases because a single case may involve several defendants).

  • The number of cases sent up to the Prosecutions Department rose by 14.4%—roughly in line with the number of individuals whose cases were sent up; i.e. the Inspectors weren't inflating the number of individuals by (for example) including more family members than they were in 2010.
  • The number of individuals who were convicted rose by 42% between 2010 and 2012. An increase of 26% would be expected from the combination of the increased percentages of individuals being referred to the Prosecutions Dept. and the increased percentage of decisions to prosecute, so it's not clear what is happening here; possibly increased willingness of the courts to convict people who are involved in cruelty cases but not the main instigators.

  • The number of convictions in the Magistrates Court rose 71% between 2010 and 2012 — apparently reflecting an increased number of convictions per individual prosecuted — and probably a greater number of cases where multiple animals were owned and hence where individuals were committing multiple offences.

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