Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life: Melissa Kite

Article excerpt

After a rush of blood to the head, I decided it might be a good idea to ask some awkward questions of the RSPCA. Oh no, I hear you cry. What fresh hell is this?

Let me explain. I found out that the charity is pretty much closed to any kind of scrutiny. Unlike other powerful organisations, the police or government bodies, the RSPCA is immune to Freedom of Information requests.

This would be fine if it were just handing out free veterinary care, but, as we know, it isn't. The charity can investigate and prosecute a little old lady for failing to spot that her cat has a tumour, but neither I nor anyone else looking into why the RSPCA wants to do this, can investigate very far into them.

They can use covert surveillance but, unlike the police, are not subject to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. If they make a mistake, they are not held accountable by any independent inspectorate.

If they succeed in convicting an old lady for animal neglect, they can force her to pay their costs. But if the old lady proves them wrong, her costs will usually come out of the taxpayer's pocket, not theirs.

I can ring their press office and say, 'Please tell me what has happened to the review of your prosecutions policy due Spring 2014,' and they can say, 'We will publish it when we are ready.' And I have to say, 'Thank you very much. Happy prosecuting. Enjoy using the police database.'

Only I don't say that, do I? Because when I find out I can't FOI the RSPCA -- is this starting to sound like a Tammy Wynette song? -- it taps into that same streak of pigheadedness that makes me pursue arduous relationships with ineligible men to the gates of insanity.

I asked around and found that the only way I can even vaguely hold them to account is to put in a Subject Access Request, which requires them to give me any information they might be holding on me. So I did. But once I put in my SAR things really went OTT. Their chief legal officer called me to say he couldn't comply unless I gave him my home address. I was not sure I wanted to, I told him. And anyway, why was that necessary?

There followed a long discussion about how they couldn't possibly know which Melissa Kite they were dealing with unless I told them where I lived. …

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