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… 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.And so Mr Atthey was a little annoyed to read his morning paper to find out what other (presumed) wildlife defenders had been up to….
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.Did they sense a trap, and stay safe in their holes?
Reader, they did not:
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.And there it would have ended, except….
Next morning, the RSPCA official returned, summoning two policemen to arrest Mr Atthey for “causing unnecessary suffering to an animal”.I’m surprised the police were so co-operative, given that reciprocal assistance is so often not forthcoming…
But it was more than just assistance they got:
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.Without charge? It seems so. No charge is mentioned.
And isn’t it a little surprising that the police take no part at all in the interview?
Christopher Booker certainly thinks so:
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”.What? Seriously?
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.Another case that hasn’t got half the publicity it deserved…
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.Which, as with all charities that grow too big, seems sadly inevitable.
But it’s the shameful police action here that’s all the more surprising:
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?Good questions.
Mr Atthey seems determined to find out:
theredsquirreldefenderCan’t really argue with his conclusions, can we?
Just to let supporters know the latest.Having already taken expert advice i have formally lodged an official complaint to Professional Standards of Northumbria Police for unlawful arrest and imprisonment.Have also complained of improper use of police premises by permitting someone of no standing ( RSPCA) to lead an interrogation.Have also requested the Inspecorate of Constabulary to investigate whether correct procedures have been adopted in relation to guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers.in assisting the RSPCA.I have to stress that I am absolutely delighted that the RSPCA have taken the bait.it is a bonus that the Police have responded in the manner they have.I am now considering setting up another group for endangered species. Honest, law abiding, decent respectable members of society. It is obvious that the police do not see themselves as serving society.
Update: Subrosa asks questions too...