31 August 2001

Cruelty: Not guilty

A FARMER has been cleared of bludgeoning a dog to death after the RSPCA admitted that a vet had "got it wrong".

James Stewart, who farms at East Stour Godmersham, Kent, said his name was dragged through the dirt when he was charged with animal cruelty. The case was dismissed last Friday (Aug 24) when the animal welfare group admitted that its prosecution was founded on an incorrect post mortem examination.

Canterbury magistrates ordered the RSPCA to pay Mr Stewarts legal costs. Now the NFU has joined Mr Stewarts solicitors in condemning the RSPCA for their conduct. It was claimed he had beaten an alsatian to death with a blunt instrument after it savaged his lambs.

Prosecutor Estelle Culligan admitted Crawley-based vet George Tribe had made a mistake. "We believe he got it wrong," she said. After the case was dismissed, Mr Stewart said he would want an apology.

An RSPCA spokesman said afterwards: "It is unfortunate, but we were given a very strong post mortem and we acted in good faith." &#42