RSPCA drops court case against couple accused of animal welfare offences

The Northern Echo: Margaret Jamieson Margaret Jamieson

THE RSPCA has dropped its case against a dog breeder and her husband accused of causing unnecessary suffering to their animals.

Last February RSPCA inspectors seized 25 dogs from the Heighington home of Margaret Jamieson, 68, and Richard Abraham, 66 and the couple were later charged with seven animal welfare offences relating to the dogs’ care.

They pleaded not guilty and during the course of their trial at Darlington Magistrates’ Court, defence barrister Sara-Lise Howe continually questioned the strength of the evidence presented by the RSPCA.

This included assertions that some of the dogs were kept in wooden cages in a dark, cold room that smelt of urine, and that many were suffering from ear and tooth infections.

On the third day of the trial today (Thursday, January 23) Miss Howe expressed further concerns about the evidence given by vet Jacqui Paterson for the prosecution.

During cross examination it emerged that Ms Paterson had examined the same dog twice, which led to the RSPCA initially numbering the dogs up to 26 instead of the 25 there actually were.

The court also heard that veterinary documents such as clinical billing notes and consultation notes, which would prove which medical treatments the dogs had received, were not included in the RSPCA’s evidence.

Upon hearing this, Miss Howe said: “I am struggling at the moment because this is quite an important revelation and I am concerned as to how this can be a fair trial.”

She asked the bench to retire and when court resumed half an hour later, prosecutor Kevin Campbell said he had been instructed by the RSPCA to withdraw the case.

He said: “The matter is fraught with difficulties legally, there is a chance we will waste even more money.

“Applying the principles of fairness the prosecution will not be proceeding with the matter.”

Speaking outside court an emotional Mrs Jamieson, who has bred champion show dogs and judged at shows, said she had been through “eleven months of hell” since her dogs were taken from her.

She praised Miss Howe as being “brilliant” and added: “I am ever so pleased it is all over.”

Mrs Jamieson’s dogs, mostly elderly dachshunds, will now be returned to her and Mr Abraham.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said it withdrew the proceedings due to concerns over procedural aspects of the case that came to light during the trial.

She added: “These issues could have affected the fairness of the proceedings and, as a responsible prosecutor, this was the only appropriate course of action.

“The decision to institute proceedings in the first place was the correct one, and unfortunately these developments were largely beyond the RSPCA's control.”

The spokeswoman was unable to say how much the case cost, but it is likely to have run into the tens of thousands.

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