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I’ve been off all week, stewing in my bed watching Netflix with the lurgy. I don’t get ill very often but when I do I get it properly. It was also getting somewhat frustrating waiting for the court decision over the Fitzwilliam’s appeal of their conviction we secured back in April of last year. As you probably know by now the court upheld the conviction after a 5 day re-trial at first Peterborough and then Cambridge Crown Court. I was present for some of those days and of course had to give evidence once again. I won’t go over all the details of the trial as it was much the same as the previous in terms of actual evidence and you can read all about that here: Original Case.

What I will do is give you some of my observations and thoughts from the case and the lengths the other side went to to discredit the prosecution witnesses and scupper the case.

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George Adams

For those that don’t know in Hunting Act cases that go to appeal there is no jury as there normally would be in a Crown Court. There will be a Crown Judge presiding but also 2 Magistrates. The Crown Judge is obviously the main player in this and it’s their job to advise the Magistrates on complex legal matters. Judge Cooper was presiding in this case and from the very start, and to coin an old fashioned phrase, I liked the cut of his jib. Here was a man who was clearly of very sharp mind and not one to be taken in by the attempted dirty tricks of the other side.

The defence team consisted of Stephen Welford (solicitor) and Peter Glenser QC. I’ve crossed intellectual swords with both of these before, I beat Welford in the original case and Glenser was the defence barrister for one of the Thurlow Hunt defendants in a case we also won only last March. (See here: Thurlow Hunt Conviction). Their record against me and my colleagues so far certainly wasn’t anything to shout about. Glenser it would seem is also Chairman of the BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation) which has always seemed like a contradiction in terms to me. It’s more about killing things than any real conservation work so here we have a man who is clearly very deeply entrenched in the wildlife abuse industry and obviously the go to man for legal matters within the CA.

On the very morning of the first day of the trial the defence submitted an application to have our expert witness, Professor Stephen Harris’s testimony omitted due to both bias and bad character, this dodgy tactic was intended to rule out his evidence without giving him the right of reply due to the lateness of the submission. Fortunately Judge Cooper wasn’t having any of it and referred to this tactic as “ambushing” the court. He noted that the defence had well over a year to submit any claims and doing so on the morning of the first day of the trial was simply not acceptable. The defence then applied for their own “expert” witness to be included, a certain Dr Hamilton Wallis.

Now Dr Wallis has a somewhat shady background to say the least. We did some digging and soon had someone who was prepared to jump on a train, travel a significant distance and stand up in court to tell everyone that he was in fact a professional liar. This so called expert’s speciality was in computer forensics although had once run a drag hunt somewhere in Wales. His relevance to the case at hand was, at best, questionable. For a little bit more about Wallis read this blog. Fields Data Recovery Scam.

I was once again on the stand for nearly 2 hours. I like to think I held my own and there was nothing in their cross examination which surprised me. I had crossed words with Glenser on a couple of occasion, my favourite of these was over the cause of death of the fox. He claimed the fox wasn’t “disemboweled” as I had claimed in my statement.

I asked him “If it wasn’t killed in this manner why were it’s intestines hanging out?” (This is clearly visible in the video).

Glenser replied, “We ask the questions Mr xxxxxx, not you”.

I think I won that one.

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Adams looks on at the kill – This was no accident

The other witness called was a sab I’ve know for some time now from South Cambs Hunt Sabs. She performed admirably once again and was certainly not overawed by the situation and definitely not someone the defence were able to bend to their will.

I should also comment on the prosecuting barrister, David Matthew QC. He was a complete gentleman, utterly charming but a shark when cross examining the defence witnesses and very robust in the legal jousting he undertook against Glenser and their dirty tactics. A razor sharp legal mind certainly not to be taken lightly who always seemed to be in control from day 1.

The appeal itself, something which sometimes gets lost, was in fact from the now retired Fitzwilliam huntsman, George Adams. When looking at the bigger picture you have to concede that George was little more than a pawn in all of this. He’ll get no sympathy from me as he chose his own fate and employment but on the stand he once again came across as what he is, a bumbling old fool. One has to wonder who really drove the appeal, the so-called Countryside Alliance or the Fitzwilliam? Adams had very little to gain apart from clearing his name but in hunting circles that’s probably irrelevant. The Fitzwilliam were clearly not happy at being labelled a criminal hunt and the fact they attempted to bring an injunction against me and others suggest they were probably the driving force in this with full CA backing. The usual CA mob of Adrian (Barry Chuckle) Simpson and Polly (Pinocchio) Portwin we also there for several days of the trial.

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John Mease

I’ve always had a very personal hatred for the use of raptors during a fox hunt. I’ve written about this at length before (see here), plus I have fairly extensive knowledge of raptors having spent many years observing and photographing them in the wild and learning about them where I can. For this reason the BoP handler John Mease has a very personal hatred of me. I think it’s probably because he sees me as a threat to his livelihood, and he’s probably right.

John was acquitted in the original case on the basis that he wasn’t in control of the hounds. It’s a shame the court couldn’t convict him due to joint venture but he was also acquitted of  cruelty after submitting video evidence of his eagle catching a fox. I saw this video for the first time during the appeal. What I saw will haunt me for the rest of my days. How he was acquitted I will never know. The CA employed some dodgy vet to state his actions were humane. What I saw was anything but.

It showed his eagle catching a fox at the base of a hedge. By the time he arrived the fox and the eagle had been fighting on the ground for some time. The eagle had stripped the flesh from part of the foxes jaw and you could see bone. The fox, still fully conscious was fighting back as best it could. Mease arrives, draws what appears to be a glorified screwdriver, nothing more than a sharpened spike and has several attempts to stab the fox through the eye socket while holding off both the fox and the eagle which is trying to defend its catch.

It was utterly grotesque and a horrific end for a beautiful animal.

Mease showed 3 videos like this.

Three.

Considering the hunt go out 2, sometimes 3 times a week during the season he could only muster 3 videos since 2005 where his eagle had been released and caught a fox even though he wears a head camera all the time. And oddly enough there was no sign of any riders and horses, hunt staff or hounds in any of the videos. In fact there was no sign of any hunt at all. This was certainly not proof the hunt had “flushed” any of those foxes.

Mease himself was a very angry man on the stand. Every question he was asked turned into a rant about sabs. We lost count the number of times he mentioned balaclavas and dressed in black. He even claimed we sprayed acid in animals faces! On several occasions the judge had to step in and tell him to answer the question he was asked and not deviate. Our QC took him apart and called him out on his constant lies.

When his cross examination was over we heard a whispered comment from the hunt support at the back of the public gallery, “Thank God that’s over”. Mease had just incriminated the hunt further. I will always maintain that if you enjoy this kind of activity there has to be something very deeply wrong with you psychologically. Violence to animals very easily translates to violence to people. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if I was to learn in the future that Mease had made that short leap.

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The fox which paid the ultimate price on NYD 2016

Moving on now to comment about Professor Harris. He’s slightly mad as you would expect any professor to be but in a good way. He dealt with the excessive and dubious claims against him in his own nonchalant style and proved his knowledge of foxes and hunting in no uncertain terms. If it was a contest merely on expert witnesses we’d have won hands down.

And so that was it.

We had to wait some time for the verdict but it was worth it in the end. I was unable to make the court on decision day which was a shame but the other witness was there and said it was “Bloody great”. Judge Cooper, in summing up had some complimentary comments about me as a witness which is always nice and has written a very detailed ruling, clearly upholding the original conviction but more importantly stating, “Something significant” must change in the planning and training of the hounds and the characteristics of hunts in the future if they don’t want to be charged with illegal hunting.

What next?

We now have case law and that’s vital. Any hunt which uses the Falconry exemption within the Hunting Act will now know it won’t protect them from prosecution. The term “flushing from cover”, was a major talking point during the whole trial is likely to be defined in the ruling. This is effectively the end of the falconry exemption loophole used by fox hunters. How the Fitzwilliam and other hunts respond to this setback remains to be seen. They took a huge gamble with this appeal and they lost but they’ve also screwed up every other hunt which used this loophole and that’s not going to make them any friends. There can be no other appeals except on a point of law. No doubt the other side will be picking through the ruling and looking for a way out but my involvement, after almost 3 and a half years is now, finally over.

John Mease was probably right to hate me. He’s probably going to lose his job, and with his job, his house, as he lives at the kennels and is a fully paid employee of the hunt.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

Finally like to thank all those involved in bringing the case to this successful conclusion – Cambs Police for a proper and robust investigation, David Matthew QC, the other witness and everyone who offered their support and advice along the way.

This time tomorrow I’ll be at Peterborough Crown Court for what I assume will be the final instalment of what feels like the never ending Fitzwilliam Hunt conviction saga. I’ve covered the story in great depth through previous blog posts so it’s pointless to go over everything again but if you want to catch up then see here, here, here and here.

I’m not really sure how things will pan out but you can never tell with Hunting Act cases in particular and I’m sure the main chance for the hunt overturning the conviction is the hope for a more sympathetic judge. The simple fact is their evidence isn’t going to get any better and having faced the defence’s cross examination for over 2 hours previously I wonder what they are going to come at me with this time.

There’s also the wider implications this may have for the Bird of Prey Exemption within the Hunting Act. If the original decision of the court is upheld other hunts which use this smokescreen will have to seriously reconsider how they operate.

Regardless of the outcome I have to be pleased we’ve dragged them through the courts and secured a conviction first time round. That’s a rarity in itself. From my own point of view and certainly that of everyone else who witnessed the proceedings on the day there’s no doubt of the guilt of George Adams (the now retired Fitzwilliam huntsman). I just hope the Judge presiding tomorrow see’s it the same way as District Judge John Wollard did on the original case.

In his summing up his statement spoke volumes.

“You are either taking part in Falconry, or hunting foxes with hounds. If you are taking part in Falconry you do not need a full pack of hounds to flush the animal, you would use only 2 or 3 of a more suitable breed. Therefore I can only assume you were taking part in hunting foxes”.

Finger crossed.

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George Adams with the Fitzwilliam Hounds.

The main hunting season may be over in my part of the world but elsewhere animals continue to be pursued by hounds for hours and then when finally exhausted, killed.

Stag and Hind hunting in the south west of England has made the news recently with the footage and evidence being released by my good friends over at Hounds Off which clearly illustrates that it is very much business as usual for the wildlife abusers who are killing with impunity.

For a better understanding of how this type of hunting is being allowed to continue you have to understand how they operate and how they are circumnavigating the law.

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Pre-ban image of a stag being shot after a long chase.

Prior to the ban, stags and hinds would have been selected from wild animals in the herd and singled out, then chased by a the pack of hounds over many miles until exhausted where the hounds would have been held at bay. At this point the huntsman would have approached and shot the animal. Sometimes these animals would have been captured before the hunt and then released into the hunting country, often a reserve animal would have been held in a horse box locally should the first escape, thus giving these psychopaths the maximum chance of a kill.

With the Hunting Act coming in to play in 2005 the hunts had to figure out a way to circumnavigate the legislation so they could continue to hunt, much like fox hunts did with the creation of “trail hunting”. There are several exemptions within the hunting act which will allow stalking and flushing out under certain conditions but all of these restrict the number of hounds to 2. This was clearly an issue for the deer hunters so they invented “relay hunting” where several pairs of hounds were used in relays to chase the quarry animal to exhaustion before being killed.

However the Quantock Stag Hounds fell foul of the law in 2007 when they were successfully prosecuted for breaching the Hunting Act while attempting to use this exemption and again in 2010 while claiming to “Rescue a Wild Animal (part 8 para 2).

From the point of view of the hunts there was clearly more work to be done in their efforts to avoid prosecution and for this they looked further afield for inspiration.

Commercial Whaling has been banned since 1986 and yet we’re still seeing these wonderful sentient creatures murdered in some numbers by countries who claim to be using the scientific exemption within the moratorium which allows the killing of whales for vaguely defined scientific purposes. Here was something the UK hunts could use as within the Hunting Act there existed a similar exemption, part 8, para 2;

Research and Observation

“The first condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal”.

What has to be questioned here is what could possible be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by chasing a stag or hind for many miles before finally killing the animal and carving it up to be handed out as trophies? I’d argue with some certainty that we already know pretty much all we’re likely to about these native mammals and there can be no scientific justification for the hunts. However the CPS seem reluctant to take on these cases and the they have recently dropped several against the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds.

What is abundantly clear is that hunting continues much as it did before the ban with the only change being the use of  2 hounds in relays. The Research and Observation exemption really needs to be challenged in the courts but for that to happen we need to be able to get it into the courts in the first place and for the CPS to grow some balls. It shouldn’t be too hard to disprove these nonsensical claims. Of course the best and final way to stop this hunting is a strengthening of the Hunting Act but that will probably also require a change in Government. Removal of these daft exemptions might not stop the hunting completely but it will certainly give the police and CPS a clear direction in prosecuting these criminals.

 

Part of our success in securing a prosecution of the Thurlow Hunt pair was in fact the judges ruling that despite their claims of trail laying the reason for their presence in Trundley Wood was in fact the likelihood that they would find a fox there. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on why this was not just likely to happen but in fact certain to happen.

Much of the work for this post had been done for me by a colleague and fellow witness in the case. It was her video footage along with my own which formed the backbone of the case. The information which I’m now going to publish was submitted as evidence however due to the lack of proof linking it to the huntsman, Chris Amatt, it was never discussed in the court proceedings. However now that it’s all over we can release this and highlight what continues to take place all over the country and not just in Thurlow Country.

“In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs : in other words, for breeding purposes. Another advantage of artificial earths is that in grass countries where the coverts tend to be small and scattered it is useful to have snug earths judiciously placed at regular intervals, thus persuading foxes to take a good line. An additional advantage is that if an artificial earth is left open, it will only take a few minutes to bolt a fox. Also if it is a blank day, one knows where to go with some certainty of finding a fox . . . In this book I only wish to touch on the subject, and to tell you what my grandfather had to say. He felt that artificial earths should be primarily intended as breeding establishments, and so among the chief points to be borne in mind should be the aspect, position, soil, drainage and materials used for their construction”. – Exert from Fox Hunting, The Duke of Beaufort, published by David & Charles, 1980

For those that don’t know artificial earths are structures built and maintained by hunts to provide shelter and breeding places for foxes. Their sole purpose is to ensure a good supply of foxes ready for the hunting season. They are most often constructed of pipes buried underground, leading to a central bedding chamber. The chambers can be elaborately built with brick or drystone walls.

There are 2 artificial earths in Trundley Wood.

artificial earths

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The picture above shows the entrance to artificial earth 1. This is a pretty standard arrangement and there is another entrance of the other side of the mound in the picture. Between these 2 entrances is the central bedding chamber. You can just see the edge of this in the picture below.

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This artificial earth would appear to be perfectly serviceable. The picture below shows the pipe to be dry and clear of any obstructions.

pipe 1

Below is the entrance to artificial earth 2.

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Once again the entrance is clear of obstructions and would appear to be serviceable for use.

tunnel 2

Interestingly the League Against Cruel Sports published the location of this earth in an investigation they carried out in 2011. You can clearly see the earth here and the area it covers. The photograph was clearly taken only a short time after it’s construction and a clear indication the Thurlow Hunt were still undertaking activities to encourage foxes several years after the ban had been in place.

lacs pic

They noted in their report: “The earth is in a wood owned by the Thurlow Estate, one of whose directors is a joint Master of the Thurlow Foxhounds. Trundley Wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature because of its ancient, semi-natural woodland.”

Let’s face it, most, if not all hunt staff are likely to know where to find foxes, especially if those locations are static and built by the estate themselves. All they have to do is rock up at any of these locations during a hunt and theirs a pretty good chance the hounds will pick up on a fox to hunt. If you’re the Kimblewick you’ll have the terrier men make sure there’s a fox a home the night before and hold it there over night to be released in front of the hounds the next day.

These aren’t isolated incidents. There are artificial earths all over our countryside and they are still very much in use by both foxes and the hunts who maintain them. In the Thurlow case it was highly likely the hounds picked up on the scent of the poor animal and it was attempting to seek refuge in one of these earths when it was caught and killed. No doubt had it reached one of the earths and we had not been on the scene, the terrier men for the hunt would have been called in the flush the animal so it could be hunted again.

Make no mistake, the so called Countryside Alliance can continue to claim that hunts are obeying the law but the simple fact of the matter is we all know different and the very presence of artificial earths on hunt owned lands only strengthens this argument. The Thurlow Hunt are prodigious artificial earth builders. In their relatively small hunt country there are 31 known artificial earths. They must have a lot of foxes to hunt. While the evidence submitted here was’t actually used in the case itself it is a clear indication that the hunt knew very well they would find a fox in Trundley Wood, in fact they were relying on it.