Animal Protection Services v Carrigan and Brown
In the recent case of Animal Protection Services v Carrigan and Brown, Animal Protection Services and their instructed law firm’s motives were under the microscope.
As you would expect from their name, Animal Protection Services is an animal welfare charity. They engaged lawyers to pursue between 80 and 100 private prosecutions of individuals alleged to have unlawfully sold pets. One such prosecution came before Judge Nicholas Dean QC, who, in refusing to allow the prosecution to be withdrawn at the request of Animal Protection Services, made some damning findings, including the following:
- That the prosecutions were brought ‘with no evidential basis‘ and ‘for wholly improper reasons and purposes‘;
- The Charity used a ‘perverse interpretation‘ of the legal principles to seek to prosecute cases where ‘no one could properly conclude that there were realistic prospects for conviction‘;
- Most of the cases pursued by the Charity were pursued in the Magistrates Court but if the Defendant elected for trial in the Crown Court, often the prosecutions were withdrawn by the Charity;
- This led the Judge to conclude that the Charity was simply trying ‘to achieve swift recovery of fees‘ and to ‘avoid judicial scrutiny of their decisions and actions‘;
- The Judge accused Animal Protection Services of ‘serious misconduct‘, being an ‘affront to the conscience of the criminal justice system‘; and
- The Judge stated that ‘the concern [he has] is that APS, sometimes in conjunction with Messrs. Parry and Welch, may have been involved in systematic fraud and in perverting the course of public justice’.
The Judge’s findings were coloured by the fact that the solicitor’s witness statements submitted in the case against the Defendants, Carrigan and Brown, were identical and that the statements of costs submitted were branded by the Judge as ‘works of almost pure fiction‘.
Whilst Nelsons do not get involved in cases involving private criminal prosecutions, our cases always proceed in the County Court and/or involve advising trustees of their obligations. This case is an example where improper actions by staff or trustees of a charity can have serious implications for charities, including:
- Adverse publicity;
- The Judge sending his judgment to the Attorney General, Greater Manchester Police, the Charities Commission, and the Solicitors Regulation Authority;
- This could in turn lead to criminal/regulatory prosecutions against the charities, their staff, and trustees as well as the law firm involved with serious reputational damage; and
- Significant cost to the charity, which would not be consistent with the charity’s primary charitable aim, in this case preventing animal cruelty.
With the above in mind, trustees would be wise to seek expert independent advice before pursuing any form of legal action and second opinions from other solicitors in the event what is being suggested by their current lawyers seems heavy-handed or worse dishonest.
Should trustees require advice in respect of their obligations in certain circumstances or in the event, a charity feels that they have been wrongly advised by their previous lawyers in respect of a course of conduct taken by the charity, they should not hesitate to contact us.
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