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You say ‘obtrusive’, I say ‘obstructive’; let’s call this prosecution off

[21 Jan 2013] RSPCA officers keen to prosecute the 72-year-old retired civil servant Bill Worthington – who shot a grey squirrel with an air rifle in the garden of his home in Bredbury, Stockport – called him ‘obtrusive’ in their interview notes. So does this mean he kept popping up and making a bit of a nuisance of himself, rather like the squirrels he described as ‘vermin’ and ‘garden rats’ for stealing the food he put out for the birds?

Mm, not really. Looks like the animal charity’s sharp-clawed but dullard inspectors must have meant ‘obstructive’. Maybe Mr Worthington refused to show remorse in the approved way by prostrating himself and begging for mercy.

Just for the record, people are allowed to kill grey squirrels – of which there are three million in the UK – but only if they send them to Nutkin nirvana humanely.

Mr Worthington has a lot on his mind. His wife has Alzheimer’s and lives in a care home. The judge has now sent him off with something else to think about, namely an income form to fill in to see how large a fine he can afford to pay. The courts – and the bloated RSPCA – just love this kind of case. Mr Worthington is their perfect target: suburban home-owner; pays his taxes; leads a blameless life feeding his garden birds; and will pay his fine like a good boy. But wouldn’t it be great if, just for once, the judge turned up at the sentencing hearing and said something sensible like:

‘Mr Worthington, I’m here to do justice in serious cases involving burglary, metal theft, assault, scamming of old people, thieving by MPs – that sort of thing. This case is too trivial to occupy the court’s time. Clearly you made a mistake in not finishing off the animal quickly. But I take into account the strain you’ve been under with your wife’s illness and paying for her care. So I’m going to dismiss this case and make the RSPCA, who have pots of money, pay all the costs.’

Somehow I don’t think this will happen. [MC]

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