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RSPCA apologise for ‘making mistakes’

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Brian Thomas, FUW: Charity Commission ‘brushed concerns under carpet’

Brian Thomas, FUW: Charity
Commission ‘brushed concerns
under carpet’

THE FARMERS’ Union of Wales has welcomed Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) chief executive Jeremy Cooper’s apology for the charity’s adversarial and highly politicised campaigns – but says many ques­tions remain regarding the organisa­tion’s conduct and that of the Charity Commission, which is responsible for monitoring charities.

Mr Cooper told The Telegraph: “Of course we have made mistakes in the past, and we are very sorry about that. We have to be honest and admit the mistakes and acknowledge them.”

The apology comes after years of criticism and negative publicity led to a parliamentary inquiry and an independ­ent report recommending sweeping changes to the charity’s involvement with prosecutions.

Responding to the apology, FUW Deputy President Brian Thomas said: “For more than a decade the FUW repeatedly raised concerns about the conduct of the RSPCA in relation to its overtly political campaigns, and pur­sued a number of complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority and the Charity Commission, amongst oth­ers.”

Mr Thomas said that while the ASA had upheld complaints against the RSP­CA by the FUW, the Charity Commis­sion had, over a prolonged period, ap­peared to take a passive approach to the charity: “In response to serious com­plaints against the RSPCA the Charity Commission was generally dismissive and at times appeared to try and brush concerns under the carpet.

“Their passive approach to the RSPCA effectively gave the charity a green light to become more militant and more political, and we would argue that Mr Cooper’s public apology is at least in part a direct consequence of this fail­ure by the Charity Commission,” added Mr Thomas.

In 2012, the then Chief Executive of the RSPCA, Gavin Grant, described the charity as ‘the oldest law enforce­ment agency still in existence in this country’, and threatened to campaign to ‘stop consumers drinking milk’, if supermarkets were unable to differenti­ate between ‘badger friendly milk’ and milk from English badger cull areas.

Similar, more ominous threats were made during a 2012 BBC Panorama documentary on the English badger cull, during which Mr Grant said that: “The spotlight of attention will be turned on those marksmen [employed to cull badgers] and on those who give permission for this cull to take place. They will be named and we will decide as citizens of this country whether they will be shamed.”

In 2012, the FUW wrote to the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers expressing major con­cerns that ten police forces in the UK, including the North Wales and South Wales Forces, had agreements with the RSPCA which allowed the charity to access confidential and sensitive infor­mation about individuals contained in police records.

Concerns have also been expressed after the RSPCA tried to claim thou­sands of pounds for stabling and caring for horses which had been put down by the charity.

“A sinister shadow has been cast over the honourable roots of the RSP­CA and the important work done by its employees.

“The only way in which to redeem its reputation is through full transpar­ency, and a full investigation of the role played by the Charity Commission in allowing the organisation to fall into such disrepute,” said Mr Thomas.

A statement from the RSPCA struck a slightly more bullish tone than Mr Cooper’s interview: ‘We can assure you the RSPCA remains as committed as ever to speaking out for vulnerable animals.

‘We make no apologies for our campaigning work which has resulted in the introduction and amendment of many laws to protect our pets, wildlife, farm animals and animals used in re­search, but we accept we got the tone wrong sometimes. Likewise, we make no apologies for prosecuting people in instances where there is clear evidence of animal cruelty.

‘Following an independent review of our prosecution activity and in line with one of the recommendations of that review, RSPCA trustees agreed to change its policy and to pass suitable cases involving traditional hunts and suitable farm cases to the police for investigation enabling the Crown Pros­ecution Service to prosecute if appro­priate. However, we reserve the right to proceed with such investigations, if the authorities fail to act.

‘We are pleased that the number of prosecutions have dropped over recent years, highlighting that welfare is im­proving and educational messages are more available. We hope this is a trend that will continue.

‘We do however apologise for the specific incidents where we have got it wrong. As a charity we have limited resources and we are dealing with huge numbers of calls. We apologise for past mistakes where an investigation wasn’t carried out to the standard we would hope, both for the animal involved and their owners. The RSPCA has and al­ways will be committed to tackling cru­elty to animals’.

The Chief Executive of the Coun­tryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, said: “The Countryside Alliance welcomes the RSPCA’s commitment to focus on animal welfare, rather than pursuing an animal rights agenda.

“The Society’s decision not to pur­sue prosecutions against farmers and hunts is a sensible one, and provides further support for the argument that it should not prosecute criminal cases as a first resort at all.

“We believe that it would be bet­ter for the RSPCA and for animals if it concentrated on protecting welfare and investigating allegations of cruelty whilst allowing the police, CPS and other statutory bodies to make deci­sions about whether criminal charges should be brought.”

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Man accused of sexually assaulting six-year-old girls

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A FORMER Penparcau man is to stand trial accused of sexually assaulting two six year old girls.

Raymond Albert Wardall, 55, now of Blaenllynant Lodge, Queens Road, Aberystwyth, appeared at Swansea Crown Court for a plea and trial preparation hearing before Judge Paul Thomas.

Wardall denied a total of eight charges of sexual assault and sexual touching.

He will stand trial on November 27 and was granted bail until then.

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Alerts issued ahead of Storm Brian

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NATURAL RESOURCE WALES (NRW) is warning people that parts of the Welsh coast could see localised flooding as Storm Brian combines with high tides this evening and tomorrow.

The conditions could cause a storm surge, which in some areas could lead to overtopping of sea defences. Current predictions show that the worst affected areas are likely to be along exposed sections of the west coast of Wales from Southern Gwynedd to Llantwit Major.

High tides in these locations are expected to peak between 6am and 11am tomorrow (Oct 21).

NRW has already issued a number of flood alerts for the west coast, and is likely to issue flood warnings for Aberystwyth and Newgale later today. Further alerts or warnings for other areas will be issued as necessary.

24/7 Emergency response workers from NRW will be out at key areas of the coast over the next couple of day to monitor the high tides and condition of its sea flood defences.

NRW has also contacted its partner agencies such as local councils and the emergency services to ensure that appropriate responses are in place should the need arise.

Richard Hancox, from Natural Resources Wales said: “Conditions across the coastline are likely to be extremely dangerous this weekend and we urge people to stay clear, and avoid visiting the coast during this time.

“We know people are tempted to try and take photos of these storms, but it really isn’t worth putting your life at risk. Sea spray and flood water can knock you off your feet easier than you might think, and the large waves can send debris flying onto shore.

“If anyone is concerned about the risk of flooding to their home, please check to see if flood warnings are available in your area, and visit our website for advice on how best to prepare.”

Flood alerts and flood warnings are updated on the Natural Resources Wales website every 15 minutes.

Information and updates are also available by calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188. People can also register for free flood warnings either by calling the Floodline number or at NRW’s website.

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​Major bequests for Aber research ​

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TWO major legacies to support postgraduate research have been announced at Aberystwyth University’s Founders’ Day held in the Old College on October 13.

The University revealed that Eleanor and David James had donated £2m to the institution where they both worked for 35 years, while former student Margaret Wooloff has bequeathed £400,000.

Both bequests will be used to fund postgraduate research at the University, in line with the wishes of the benefactors.

The legacies were announced as part of the University’s now annual Founders’ event, which echoes the celebrations held in the town back in October 1872 when the first students arrived at Old College.

The Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, Professor Elizabeth Treasure, said: “It is extremely fitting that these very special bequests have been the focal point of this year’s Founders’ Day event. They remind us how the University has been supported since its early beginnings by the generosity of the people of Wales and the wider world.

“Eleanor and David James, and Margaret Wooloff all dedicated their lives to the furtherance of knowledge and their valuable contributions to education in Wales will live on in their legacies. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”

The Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Aberystwyth University, Louise Jagger, said: “There is a very strong bond between the University and our family of alumni across the world. Eleanor and David James and Margaret Wooloff were all active members of the Old Students’ Association during their lives and we are immensely grateful to them for their support over the years. Their generous legacies will now enable the scholars of the future to pursue their particular fields of expertise and undertake research with impact, which is integral to our mission as a leading University.”

Members of the local community joined staff and students at the Old College to mark Founders’ Day.

The guest speaker at the event was Ceredigion MP Ben Lake who said: “The story of how Aberystwyth University – or the University College of Wales as it was originally called – is one in which we can all take pride as a nation. Driven by the vision of its founders, the dream of establishing a college with University status in Wales was made possible thanks to the generosity of ordinary people. The roots and foundations of the University reflect our values in Wales and it is vitally important that we commemorate and celebrate this very special heritage.

“May I take this opportunity to congratulate Aberystwyth on being named recently as the University of the Year for Teaching Quality by the Good University Guide – a well deserved accolade which is testament to the dedication of all its staff.”

In July 2017, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that it had earmarked £10.5m for ambitious plans to redevelop Old College in time for the University’s 150th anniversary in 2022.

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