RSPCA defends cost of fox hunting case
CHARITY bosses have defended spending almost £327,000 on taking a hunting case to court.
The RSPCA prosecuted the Heythrop Hunt for illegal fox hunting in the Cotswolds.
This week, Oxford magistrates found the hunt and two of its members guilty and fined them.
The case proved controversial, with critics questioning whether the RSPCA was making best use of money donated to it by members of the public.
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Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the charity defended its actions against the Chipping Norton-based hunt and said people knew what they were doing when they decided to give money.
She said: "Everybody who donates to the RSPCA knows that we carry out prosecutions and knows that their money will be used that way."
Cheltenham resident Nadia Stone, who donates money to the charity monthly, said: "There is a section on the website that allows you to choose whether to give your money to operational costs or to the local branch so I don't think any money meant for our local animals in need has funded this court case.
"I personally don't have a problem with the money spent on this landmark case."
Cheltenham Animal Shelter works closely with the RSPCA but is not funded by it.
Yesterday, staff declined to say anything, other than to stress that they were totally independent from the RSPCA.
The hunt was fined after admitting fox hunting.
It pleaded guilty to four charges of intentionally hunting a fox with dogs on land in the Cotswolds this year and last year.
Former huntsman Julian Barnfield, 49, of Worcester Road, Chipping Norton, and recently retired hunt master Richard Sumner, 68, of Penhill Farm, Salperton, Gloucestershire, also pleaded guilty to the same charges.
District Judge Tim Pattinson fined the hunt £4,000, Sumner £1,800 and Barnfield £1,000.
The hunt was told to pay £15,000 towards RSPCA legal costs, Sumner £2,500 costs and Barnfield £2,000.
Each defendant was also ordered to pay £15 victim surcharges.
Prime Minister David Cameron, MP for Witney, has previously ridden with the hunt.