back to article Does the RSPCA have your gun licence or car registration? NOBODY knows

No checks are carried out on what the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) does with confidential records it receives from police databases, including information on people's vehicles and gun licences, the Register has learned. Precise details of the Information Sharing Agreements (ISAs) between the RSCPA …


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  1. pepper

    Massive facepalm

    I doubt anything else is more appropriate here.. The insanity of giving a private institution access to this data is nothing sort of insane...

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Insanity ?

      would imply that this is in someway unplanned. It's all *very* planned, believe me. The UK government has concocted a fiction that "private" companies aren't covered by the ECHR, and therefore can do as they please. So the government can outsource it's obligations under the ECHR to a private company, and then hold their hands up and say "nothing to do with us, guv".

      Eventually, the ECHR will wise up to this, and there will be a very clear ruling that any agency that acts on behalf of the state is bound by the same rules. Which explains this current governments obsession with trying to leave the ECHR.

      Does anyone remember when ACPO was allowed to ignore a FOI request as they are a "private organisation" ?

      FWIW the Yanks tend to be much tougher on this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: FWIW the Yanks tend to be much tougher on this.

        Your mileage may vary on that point. I once worked for a contractor who had was the prime for a Congressional Committee handling sensitive information (would have been covered by HIPAA and probably half a dozen similar laws) in bulk (like whole states at a time). Because Congress usually exempts themselves from following the rules the rest of us have to follow, the folks handling the data were told they were exempt too.

        AC for obvious reasons.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Massive facepalm

      See my other posting. The RSPCA is a 'de facto' investigator and regulator of animal abuse issues in England at the very least, if not 'de jure'

      1. M Gale

        Re: Massive facepalm

        That's correct. De facto.

        They are a charity, and their "officers" are civilians who have zero extra rights or legal powers than you or I. They do like to pretend otherwise though, and nobody wants to point this out because the RSPCA is all about the cute fluffy animals, ain't it?

        tl;dr: Animal abuse is bad, but so is pretending to be a police officer.

      2. Vociferous

        Re: Massive facepalm

        My previous post got deleted, so I'll try again, without invectives:

        Why the would anyone worry about RSPCA? Can anyone here point to any transgressions committed by the RSPCA? Can anyone point to any proof of any of the claims in this article?

        No? Just generalized conspiracy paranoia? Not quite.

        The farmer's organizations of the UK are currently mounting a campaign against the RSPCA because it's asked to inspect livestock which is being exported:

        Unlike pretty much everyone, shady farmers and slaughterhouses *do* have reason to hate the RSPCA, and they do. I would bet even money this gently caressing article is a part of their campaign.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Massive facepalm

          No, you're quite right, we just publish baseless claims without doing basic things like linking to the source documents...

          ... oh, wait.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The League Against Cruel Sports have to get information about who is going out geared up to kill cute fluffy animals from somewhere.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey, just think of the cats and dogs

    And all the other little furry animals that need saving from fucktards! I'm just sayin'.

  4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    ACPO claims that the RSPCA only gets access to police data when it intends to prosecute someone,

    So does the ACPO/CPS keep records to show if the aforesaid individuals were prosecuted? In some cases the information might show that prosecutions were not warranted, but if the ration of prosecutions to requests is, say, 1:10 or so then alarm bells should be ringing.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge


      I don't know, why not issue a FOI request to ACPO.

      Oh, hang on, they're not bound by FOI, as they are a private company - see my point above ^

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: ACPO

        You'll be happy to know that ACPO have been covered by FOI for about a year or so (voluntarily, when the ICO started looking into them).

  5. Anonymous Coward 101

    "Under the ISAs the RSPCA promises to dispose of the information when it is no longer needed: "In most cases, it is expected that information shared with the RSPCA will therefore be destroyed within a maximum timeline [sic] of 6 years."

    But there's simply no way of knowing whether this is true."

    I suggest that the chances of any organisation correctly disposing of data within a given time period is close to zero. Data will be copied around a computer network, backed up, copied to memory sticks and so forth.

  6. AndyC

    Check out Radio 4...

    Seriously. They ran a piece last week about the RSPCA and the fact that it has increased the level of prosecutions by at least a factor of 2 in the last 3 years. This is, according to the Chief Exec because of the 'increased levels of cruelty to animals that is occurring'. up by a factor of 2 in 3 years, give me a break!

    As stated in the interview, there is a link between funding and prosecutions. More prosecutions = increased donations.

    The fact that some of these raids and prosecutions are 'spurious' is brushed off.

    One of the raids was officially acknowledged as being based upon a report, fabricated by the RSPCA, of a cat in distress (this was at an animal sanctuary that had no issues at all and was dragged through the gutter by the press).

    And woe betide you if you are a lawyer or vet who dares to stand up for the defence in court. The RSPCA will try and get you blacklisted or worse, just for daring to defy them.

    Don't get me started on how they treat the families of peopel who give them a donation in their wills...

    Bunch of terrorists hiding behind a thin veil of legitimacy = RSPCA

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Check out Radio 4...

      Don't forget how it will happily spend £330,000+ on a single case over a single fox hunt, yet deems it ok to put healthy animals down for no other reason than it can't be arsed to look after them any longer.

    2. Rob

      Re: Check out Radio 4...

      Your quite right Andy, I've hand first hand experience of what they are like with people's donations from will's.

      I used to support the RSPCA but in more recent years they have turned into a very aggressive organisation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Check out Radio 4...

        Guys can you give me more detail on this? A relative died very recently & I'm pretty sure they are in her will to receive a donation, so any warnings gratefully received.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Check out Radio 4...

          Will fights:

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Check out Radio 4...

          Not just RSPCA, never tussle over a will with the Guide Dogs or NSPCC. They'll all wilfully (heh) blow the lot on lawyers just to spite you. I used to wonder whether the universe would implode if you named all three but didn't specify the split, but then realized they probably have reciprocal gentlemen's agreements.

        3. M7S

          Re: Check out Radio 4...

          BBC Radio 4 "Face The Facts" Wed 7th Aug.

          Might still be on iPlayer or if there's a podcast.

          I listened, having heard the trail, found it interesting.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Check out Radio 4...

      I heard the R4 program too. Shocking. Make sure YOU don't give them any financial support and tell your friends and relatives, especially those who may be likely to consider animal charities (e.g. pet owners).

      How about an e-Petition to request that the Rspca Royal Charter be withdrawn and an investigation into the links between police and RSPCA.

  7. Desk Jockey

    Be afraid

    Of course there is no way the RSPCA could be infiltrated by the animal rights/Greenpeace nutters who then use their access to the police databases to help their group conduct better 'direct action' campaigns! Knowing where the fox hunters or the scientists working in animal testing labs keep those shotguns is in the public good don't you know!

    OK, enough with the sarcasm, but it can hardly escape anyone's attention how inherently dangerous this level of access could be in the wrong hands.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be afraid

      Of course there is no way the RSPCA could be infiltrated by the animal rights/Greenpeace nutters ...

      No, of course not ... because, by all accounts, that has alreay happened.

      AC because ... see title!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Be afraid

      "there is no way the RSPCA could be infiltrated by the animal rights/Greenpeace nutters "

      I think the record in recent years shows that it's the nutters working for ACPO Ltd who are infiltrating perfectly legitimate protest organisations. Look up ex-undercover policeman Mark Kennedy/Stone, for a well publicised recent example (he changed sides, which is how the public found out about it).

      Yes, ACPO Ltd. As another comment noted, they're a private company, not an arm of the state. But they happily authorise and fund apparently unsupervised undercover activity infiltrating legitimate peaceful protest organisations.

      If you have nothing to fear, you have nothing to hide. Right? Wrong.

    3. JohnMurray

      Re: Be afraid

      They're not the only ones. A new store near me vets job applicants via Scotland, because there is no restriction in Scottish law to doing enhanced checks on people, as there is in England. But the information still comes from the police in England.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Be afraid

        This should be illegal under UK law. Have you raised your concerns with the ICO?

  8. Ian 62

    Data protection act?

    If you thought you might be on their lists, couldnt you request copies and corrections to be made to it as per the Data Protection act?

    At least then you'd know if they had someone on you, and what that might be.

    As theyre not a Government agency they'd have no 'secrecy' get out.

    Copied from Wiki.. So it may or may not be 100% accurate, but I'd have thought that they could fall foul of sections 4 and 5 at least.

    1.Personal data shall be processed fairly and lawfully and, in particular, shall not be processed unless- least one of the conditions in Schedule 2 is met, and the case of sensitive personal data, at least one of the conditions in Schedule 3 is also met.

    2.Personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall not be further processed in any manner incompatible with that purpose or those purposes.

    3.Personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose or purposes for which they are processed.

    4.Personal data shall be accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date.

    5.Personal data processed for any purpose or purposes shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose or those purposes.

    6.About the rights of individuals e.g.[9] personal data shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects (individuals).

    7.Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

    8.Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Data protection act?

      I suspect any SAR would be denied as being necessary for "crime prevention" purposes.

      It's the old need-to -know paradox. How do you know, what you need to know ?

    2. David Ward 1

      Re: Data protection act?

      did you miss this part of the article? "An individual suspecting that the RSPCA had files on him or her could make a subject access request under the Data Protection Act - but organisations are exempt from compliance with this process if data is held for the purpose of "the capture or prosecution of offenders". ACPO claims that the RSPCA only gets access to police data when it intends to prosecute someone, so this exemption would no doubt be generally claimed."

    3. Roo

      Re: Data protection act?

      The problem with using the Data Protection Act to do fishing is that the folks holding your data can quite happily fail to disclose the entire dataset they hold on you with zero penalty because the ICO simply isn't capable of enforcing the DPA.

      Every time I have requested the information held on me the information returned has been a subset, however short of breaking into their offices to locate the missing documents there has been no way to actually prove that they have failed to disclose requested information to me.

      I am pretty sure that my experiences with companies failing to disclose all their records are not unique. I don't see any reason to expect this situation to change, the folks in charge are quite happy with the state of play. The best we can hope for is a bit of schadenfreude when one of those folks in charge gets screwed over themselves.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't Give A Penny To The RSPCA

    Who the hell do they think they are ?

    There CEO Gavin Grant is on £150k + per annum - nice work if you can get it.

    1. Tridac

      Re: Don't Give A Penny To The RSPCA

      Had a call from them a few months ago, trying to scrounge money, nice young lady, but I had to explain to her that I wouldn't ever give them a cent if they were dying in the gutter, after all the shenanegans they have been up to. Had read about the 300+K prosecution and more, which quite rightly (effectively) failed, with the RSPCA not being awarded costs. Hopefully that will inject a bit of reality into the excessive consumption of their own coolaid and whatever else they have been smoking. Turned into a not very nice orgaisation and accountable to no-one but themselves.

      Gross abuse of power, self aggrandisement, illlusions of grandeur, all apply and from what i've read about the illustrious Gavin, " the continuance of the class struggle by other means", at least w/regard to the hunting issue...


    2. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: Don't Give A Penny To The RSPCA

      I've cancelled the direct debit to them because of this, and told them why. The amount is now divided between two real animal charities.

  10. Salts
    Black Helicopters

    Does the Archbishop of Canterbury..

    Know something, he refused to become a patron of the RSPCA just last week(I may be an atheist but I am becoming to like this chap) Wonga & RSPCA

    But they are after him now, he may need help

    These RSPCA people are scary even Unilever got scared and gave them money, I hear the NSA ask the RSPCA for advice.

    1. Jim 59

      Re: Does the Archbishop of Canterbury..

      The Church put out a polite notice saying Archbishop could no longer be patron of the RSPCA due to other commitments. But it is inevitable seen as a snub for the reasons above.

      Maybe time for Her Maj to withdraw the "Royal" prefix too.

  11. Jamie Kitson


    > No other private organisation enjoys similar privileges of being able to request access to the Police National Computer (PNC).

    Isn't ACPO itself a private organisation which sidesteps FOI requests?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Lots of people getting a sweat on about the RSPCA

    Amateurs. It's the real rozzers you need to worry about.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And a bit more for those that love the RSPCA

  14. knarf


    It would be very interesting to see what data they has pull for residents in Scotland since it does not operate within Scotland, this is covered by Scottish Animal Welfare

    If they are pulling info in Scotland then they are certainly abusing access as the very least and/or being used as a medium for other channels

  15. Diskcrash

    Re-enforcing behaviour

    The RSPCA pursues criminal enforcement to generate press and donations which then generates more criminal prosecutions to get more press and donations. This is effectively crack cocaine for charity organisations. There is nothing to indicate a dramatic rise in cruelty to animals that requires this level of malicious prosecution.

    Break the circle and stop donating and supporting the RSPCA and instead help out the local shelter or wildlife group then at least your money will go where you intended instead of into the pockets of lawyers and executives of the RSPCA.

  16. Alan Brown Silver badge

    It seems to me that the RSPCA and a bunch of other shadow "regulators" (ASA, Phonepayplus, all ombudsman services, the law society, various professional regulatory bodies all fall under section 5

    Various ICO staff I've spoken to agree in principle with my observation.

    Additionally, from talking to a few politicians involved in the drafting of the original act, this was something they saw as intended.

    I know that staff within the ICO have been itching for a test case to push all the way through, as they need a precedent - and they can only do that when one of the outfits in question gives a "FOAD, we're not subject to FOI" response AND the original requestor is persistent enough to take through all the steps necessary to bring to the ICO AND the outfit tries to fight being brought under FOI jursdiction.

    The ICO did try to go after ACPO, but that fizzled when ACPO voluntarily agreed to becoming subject to FOI rules before an official determination could be made (ie, no precedent which can be applied to other outfits (this is related to subsection 3 of section 5))

    Section 5 Further power to designate public authorities.

    (1)The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs may by order designate as a public authority for the purposes of this Act any person who is neither listed in Schedule 1 nor capable of being added to that Schedule by an order under section 4(1), but who—

    (a)appears to the Secretary of State to exercise functions of a public nature, or

    (b)is providing under a contract made with a public authority any service whose provision is a function of that authority.

    (2)An order under this section may designate a specified person or office or persons or offices falling within a specified description.

    (3)Before making an order under this section, the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs shall consult every person to whom the order relates, or persons appearing to him to represent such persons.

    (4)This section has effect subject to section 80.

    (Section 80 clarifies coverage for Scotland)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Timewarp ?

    "ACPO disclosed a list of organisations who can request access to the PNC

    AFTER The Register broke the story

    of how RSPCA workers were accessing individuals' criminal records."

    By Andrew Orlowski, 19th August 2013

    Exposed: RSPCA drills into cops' databases, harvests private info

    By Andrew Orlowski and Ken Tindell, 30th July 2013

    Some examples,

    and sure I'd come across this issue prior to these.

    Thursday, 10 November 2011

    19 November 2011

    Wednesday, 3 February 2010

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I would guess...

      then they should take the police with them, and have the police do that check first.

      They certainly should not be in the business of putting up adverts saying "think of the animals" then lining lawyers pockets. (I hope they check those pockets are not fur-lined?)

      If a crime has been committed, that's the job of the police, not for a charity that is clearly misleading in it's fundraising - paying obscene salaries to it's own management, handing over money to lawyers whenever they feel like it, definitely not in the spirit of their advertising.

      Let's have a new royal society: RSPASL - the Royal Society for the Prevention of Abuse of the Spirit of the Law. It can act against RSPCA exemptions from FOI even though it has quasi-police powers, it can go after councils that use RIPA to check on recycling / school catchment etc.

      It'll be busy.

    2. JamieL

      Re: I would guess...

      Making two very broad assumptions that:

      1) Legitimate firearm/shotgun holders would threaten anyone with a weapon when challenged at their front door

      2) People who hold unlicensed weapons (the ones that are used in the vast majority of crimes) don't abuse animals and get visits from the RSPCA

      Because after all, if the RSPCA "inspector" in his plot-lookalike uniform turns up at your door without a warrant a simple "sod off" is quite sufficient without resorting to weapons of any sort (legal or otherwise).

      1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: I would guess...

        Correct. While the RSPCA will claim that they want to know "if we're going to get guns waved in our face" when they rock up to steal animals and intimidate members of the public, in actual fact the information disclosed from the NFLMS and the PNC is hugely valuable to them because it gives them leverage over their victims. NFLMS records can also contain details of home security (types of locks fitted, alarm systems, response times for police summoned via alarm signals, etc) and I shouldn't need to spell out why having the precise details of your home alarm system in the hands of people who want to break in and steal your pets is a bad thing.

  19. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    Seriously WTF has a charity got this much access to the PNC.

    Now you've got to wonder how many PI's are friendly with RSPC "officers" and what they might get for an "unofficial" donation.

    As others have noted it is well past time for these quasi- non governmental (but investigative) agencies to be under FOI requirement.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF

      Rotten from the top down.

      The wifey once volunteered for our local RSPCA shelter (as a part of a course she was doing on animal management).

      Our local community was/is very generous with donations of both money and food. Without fail ALL the food went home with the staff to feed their pets. Donated money was used every month to order the cheapest of the cheap "Breederpak" foods to feed the "inmates"

      1. Oz

        Re: WTF

        Did she rat them out? I'm sure the Charities Commission would be interested in that

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strange stuff...

    As a son of a man who holds shotguns (legally) I've been through the whole process of assessment etc as an observer. If a Policeman knocks at the door and asks to see the gun cabinet the rules state that if I admit to knowing where the keys are kept then the guns aren't 'secure' and dad loses his licence.

    The thought that such information given in strict confidence to the police (during audits) could be given to a third party is shocking. Especially a shower of shite like the RSPCA!

    AC for obvious reasons.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Curbing this vicious vigilante organisation

    Data issues (vital as they are) on one side, what is long overdue is removing the right of any single-issue organisation to pervert the course of justice by funding private prosecutions. The purpose of the common law right for private individuals to bring private prosecutions is to allow matters to be brought before the court when the appropriate official organisation refuses to act on prima facie evidence.

    Defra is the official animal welfare organisation and should be the sole prosecuting body. Only if Defra fails to act correctly should a private person - wholly funded out of his own pocket - be permitted his common law right to bring a private prosecution. There is no place in a civilised society subject to the rule of law for unaccountable vigilante organisations such as the RSPCA to meddle in the legal process.

    This type of third-party funding was called champerty, and the courts used to throw out any attempted private proceedings which were not wholly funded by the individual bringing the private action.

    Everyone should lobby hard for champertous private prosecutions to be outlawed and for any organisation attempting to prosecute through an employee or any other private individual to be immediately closed down and their assets confiscated.

    Turning to the Data Protection aspects, how can the RSPCA have data sharing arrangements with the Police when they are only the funding source and not the prosecuting body?

    Only when this unofficial vigilante body is stripped of its ability to fund its employees to bring private prosecutions will due process be respected.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RSPCA Prosecutions UP

    They say that they are prosecuting two fold more, however how many of those are successful prosecutions? They don't say that. Many of the cases they bring are vexatious prosecutions against members of the legal hunting community (people who these days carry out drag hunts in accordance with the law), and in most cases those are thrown out by the judge.

    What is more concerning is that the public purse is always left to pick up the costs awarded to those who have done no wrong - running into millions of pounds a year I'd wager. The RSPCA should pick up that bill, not the tax payer.

    The RSPCA and the League Against Cruel Sports in my mind is like as Sinn Fein was to the Provisional IRA.

    Anon because "just because you're not paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you"

  23. NFD

    The RSPCA has for some considerable time been pushing its feelers into all sorts of organisations and now they stretch for a very long way indeed. The current senior team are quite simply politically motivated erreing on being full blown animal rights. Did you know their Inspectors bring a Policeman along and so they can enter your property even without a warrent. I recently discovered they fudge a law to protect property from being damaged Section 17 PACE 1984 to enter your house and take your dog just on the say so of the RSPCA.

    17(1) (e) of saving life or limb or preventing serious damage to property which although referring to 'humans', note (v) sets out that 17(l)(e) fife and limb refers to humans only but animals can be property

    If you own a pet be very afraid as there is nothing you can do to get the dog back if for example your neighbour deciedes to get his own back on you for your late party by telling the RSPCA anonymously you maltreat your pet until you have spent a great deal of your money in the courts. What ratio of the animals they take do they destroy? Answer 44%!

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What could possibly go wrong?

    So you have a bit of an incident while driving one day, a biker you never saw pulls out on you and you nearly kill him, he goes ballistic wants to kill you but can't in public. Luckily you escape unscathed and make it home safe.

    Unfortunately for you, this biker knows how to get your home address because he has a contact that can retrieve it via the RSPCA which having less oversight than the police means it easier than finding a bent copper to do the job (and coppers have every check they make logged, so would be very cautious about doing something like this for a criminal). A couple of weeks letter you get beaten up and a broken nose, which you have no idea is related. Thanks RSPCA!

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