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Some of the country's most senior lawyers have donated their time free of charge for animal cruelty cases, the SPCA announced today.

SPCA inspectors can bring serious animal offenders before a court, usually preparing their own cases. But if the accused fight the charges, the society can face expensive legal bills.

It is facing financial difficulties bringing cases but can now boast a panel of 21 prosecutors, including 13 Queen's Counsel and senior barristers and partners of the leading law firms, working for free.

Among those who have signed up are John Billington, Stuart Grieve and John Haigh.

A lawyer acting for the SPCA complained the courts were not applying the Animal Welfare Act last month after a Manukau man escaped with a $500 fine after killing a cat with a crossbow,

Bob Kerridge, Executive Director of the Auckland SPCA, said: "I am concerned that the society, which, has an important law enforcement function, receives no financial support in the execution of its duties in bringing prosecution proceedings before the court.

"That so many gifted lawyers are prepared to provide their services to the Society to ensure complete justice is done, and to develop the law in this area, warms my heart."

The Auckland SPCA prosecuted 52 people in the 2007-08 financial year compared with 40 in the previous year.

The new "Pro-Bono Panel of Prosecutors for the SPCA Auckland" is the initiative of Anita Killeen, chief prosecutor for the Serious Fraud Office, who has recently been appointed to the board of directors of Auckland SPCA.

She said: "One of the SPCA's objectives is for greater deterrence and denunciation for those offenders who have been prosecuted for the more serious cases of cruelty against animals."

She said the new panel would ensure these prosecutions are put before the courts "in the most effective and appropriate manner."

The pro-bono panel of prosecutors for the SPCA Auckland

* Mr John Billington QC, Queen's Counsel, Shortland Chambers.
* Mr Roger Chambers, Barrister, Vulcan Chambers.
* Mr Nick Davidson QC, Queen's Counsel, Bankside Chambers.
* Mr Paul Davison QC, Queen's Counsel, Auckland.
* Mr Richard Earwaker, Barrister, Federal Chambers.
* Mr Stuart Grieve QC, Queen's Counsel, Auckland.
* Mr John Haigh QC, Queen's Counsel, Shortland Chambers.
* Dr Rodney Harrison QC, Queen's Counsel, Auckland.
* Mr Mike Heron, Partner, Russell McVeagh, Auckland.
* Ms Anne Hinton QC, Queen's Counsel, Auckland.
* Mr David Jones QC, Queen's Counsel, Lorne Street Chambers.
* Mr John Katz QC, Queen's Counsel, Bankside Chambers.
* Mr Peter Kaye, Barrister, Vulcan Chambers.
* Mr Aaron Lloyd, Partner, Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, Auckland.
* Mr Ron Mansfield, Barrister, Auckland.
* Mr Stephen Mills QC, Queen's Counsel, Shortland Chambers.
* Ms Mary Peters, Barrister, Bankside Chambers.
* Mr Todd Simmonds, Barrister, Lorne Street Chambers.
* Mr Nicholas Till QC, Queen's Counsel, Auckland.
* Mr Kit Toogood QC, Queen's Counsel, Bankside Chambers.
* Mr Harry Waalkens QC, Queen's Counsel, Quay Chambers.

- NZHERALD STAFF