The battle between those who kill for fun and compassionate who aim to stop them has, and is, being fought on many levels. The front line in the fields of this country is of course where it matters most and were lives are saved but social media has added an extra field on which battle lines can be drawn and there’s no doubt in this department those against hunting have the upper hand.

However in the past there have been other battles fought, this time within the British legal system where hunts have taken their obvious financial advantage and attempted to use in an effort to gain immunity from the attentions of monitors and sab groups alike. I’ve covered this issue before (see here) but those keeping abreast of more recent matters will be aware of the Injunction the Fitzwilliam Hunt have taken out against both myself and several named others.

Before I comment further on the case it should be noted that this legal action could be considered the last big gamble being taken by the Fitzwilliam and most importantly a testament to the effectiveness of our actions over the last couple of seasons. Even though the hunt is owned by Sir Philip Neylor-Leyland (who’s worth in excess of £180M) they are clearly worried, having noted in the court submission that their membership is down by one third and this they lay firmly at our door. We obviously take pride in this and the lives we save by undertaking these actions. If you have any doubt about the type of person we’re dealing with here, prior to it’s banning, Neylor-Leyland was president of the National Coursing Club. He clearly refuses to acknowledge that hunting is also illegal and so throws his considerable financial weight behind the court action in an effort to prop up this failing venture.

The interim hearing took place at the High Court on the 1st November with Mr Justice Freedman presiding.

I took several pages of notes while the hunt’s solicitor bumbled and bluffed his way through their skeleton argument and this could have be concluded in much shorter order and it was clear the evidence presented was poorly organised and very much based on a single theme, that of trespass. Much of what was presented appeared to be confusing and lacking in any kind of accuracy which is demanded by the court. Some of their evidence was nothing more than an utter fabrication. This went on for so long our QC (Ashley Underwood) only had from 2:50pm to the close to put forward our side of the case. The excessively long submission from the hunt would appear to have been planned in an effort to minimse time for our own.

However Ashley spoke concisely and proved hugely superior in both understanding and eloquence in spite of the limited time allowed for our argument. He pointed out the illegality of the hunts methods, the accuracy (or lack therein) of the hunts evidence and the number of contradictions within it, their continued use of false earths, the assaults committed by their supporters and their overall “Victorian attitude” towards land ownership in that any injunction would be purely in an effort to facilitate their continued illegality.

After all of this Mr Justice Freedman let the court know he would take time to consider his verdict and this would be made public on the 16th November.

Exterior of the Royal Courts of Justice in London, commonly called the Law Courts

We now have the ruling and the salient points are thus:

1- There was evidence of repeated trespass by 7 of the Sabs and ‘persons unknown’ and ordered an injunction until a full trial (expected to be March 2019). This would only apply to the land owned by the the hunt, no third parties had applied for an injunction so there would be no injunction in place if the Fitzwilliam left their own land.

2 – He found insufficient evidence against another 7 Sabs and lifted an injunction granted earlier against them and also that there was no justified claim for a harassment injunction.

3 – He refused to order Sabs not to touch Hunt animals. “If animals are permitted to roam, members of the public ought to be able to touch them (without harming them) if they are coming into their own space” This was part of the Trespass to Goods injunction claimed by the hunt and something else which was not approved by the judge (it should be noted that as animals are owned the by the hunt they are classed as goods).

4 – On violence against Sabs:“The 2 defendants did not commit an assault, and they seem to have been pushed. I shall assume that the better of the argument in respect of assaults and criminal damage are that they were caused by the Hunt”. Once again the hunts claims were completely trashed and their statements considered less than truthful.

5 – On whether the Fitzwilliam commits Hunting Act offences he noted: “(The defendants barrister) has made out a persuasive argument that the hunting is illegal. (The Hunt’s barrister) was not able to say much in response about detailed arguments”.

While the injunction for trespass is still in place this can be considered a victory more than a loss. The duty of the judge is to maintain separation between the conflicting parties and the easiest way to do with was to enforce the current trespass injunction however the hunt were denied their requests on pretty much every other aspect of what they were claiming for and crucially their integrity (with regard to evidence supplied) being called into question along with the legality of their hunting methods. Only 3% of what they actually claimed for was granted.

Ex Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams

This will clearly have further ramifications with regards to the appeal against the conviction of their previous huntsman, George Adams as their methods of hunting and claimed use of hunting exemptions has not changed.

The full trial is the next step. Are options are twofold;  Settle or fight. As the Surrey Hunt Monitors tweeted: In the words of one wise barrister “no client ever regretted settling”. But fighting on is also realistic and the hunt should fear a trial more than you as it will expose the realities of hunting even more. But sensible cost protection measures needed. Cost protection indeed, a full trial is likely to see costs in the region of £500K.

 

Comments
  1. Glorious Sab says:

    so today we start crowdfunding

  2. Nikki Dixon says:

    Please fight. It’s imperative that this sets a precedent. Will fund £1000.00 now and a further £5000.00 once the date is set.

    • Thanks Nikki, that’s very generous. We will be sure to let you know. The decision is not mine alone but also that of those sabs who are still named on the injunction and will depend largely on cost protection.

  3. R Mitchell says:

    I would like to make a small contribution to the costs incurred by the Hunt sabs as we really do need to remove the sadistic scum which takes pleasure from torturing beautiful animals. These are not human being they are low class sum of the earth and I trust they will get the punishment they deserve.

  4. Lou says:

    Thanks for the update. The costs are huge, wonder if you’ve approached IFAW and save me (who said a while ago they were putting aside funds to fight hunting in court I believe)?
    I’m sure the money could be raised if enough of the great british public understood what was going on here-it’s a disgrace that a wealthy sadist can throw cash & protect his criminal hobby.
    Obviously would be bloody brilliant to see if backfire in his face and also send a message to the rest that they aren’t above the law.

  5. Deborah Swift says:

    Please fight on I will contribute £50 to crowdfunding. You are amazing thank you so much for all that you do. Your blogs are so well written and interesting. Thank you to all the brave hunt saboteurs across the country

  6. Jean Cruxton says:

    Come on Brian May, Sir Paul McCartney , etc etc. People with money who care for our wildlife . Could you not help?

  7. Deborah Swift says:

    Thanks Linda xxx signed

    Deborah

  8. kateartace says:

    NOW LISTEN EVERYONE WE ALL SHOULD HAVE RIGHTS TO THE MAIN ROADS AND THE WOODS. the main roads, lanes and woods should not belong exclusively to the hunters.

  9. That the injunction applies only to trespass on Fitzwilliam’s own land was not made clear in other reports. How much land do they own? Might it apply to land they don’t actually own but do hold the sporting rights?

    • It only apples to the land they own regardless of sporting rights. I believe they own in the region of 50,000 acres although they can’t and don’t hunt over all of this. Lots of hunting is done over land they don’t own.

  10. Viv Maier Bonham says:

    Courts can make a costs order any way they see fit and they take into account conduct throughout the case and reasonableness of allegation. That may well not go in the hunt’s favour. Either way, I’ll happily continue to donate to see this through and have no doubt that others will do likewise. The hunt have very unwisely turned this into a matter of wealth and perceived privilege versus our British love of animals and wildlife.

  11. James Thomas says:

    You can read the judgment on the Falcon Chambers website.
    The hunt are saying their activities are lawful quite a bold assertion bearing in mind the conviction against their former huntsman. Are they confident about his appeal?
    The sabs seem to have denied they trespass which seems bizarre you have to tresspaas to sab a hunt.
    I am sure half a million quid could be better spent.

  12. j booth says:

    I will contribute to the legal fund. i don’t have much as I’m not working at the moment and have to live from my savings, but, I will contribute nonetheless.

    I will watch out for any campaign to add more funds.

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