At least I did, but apparently not.

I thought I’d written my last piece on the Fitzwilliam case as I explained here. However I have been informed by the court witness liaison that George Adams is going to appeal his conviction. This immediately bought into question the issue of the time limit for any appeal. As already stated in my blog post previously this is 21 days and those 21 days have long since past. I have asked the witness liaison to question this and he will be getting back to me in due course. Further examination of this rule was clearly required and indeed there is an option to apply to a Crown Court for permission to appeal.

At the time of writing I can’t be sure that the appeal wasn’t submitted within the 21 day limit and it has just taken this long to filter back to me however even by British Judiciary standards this would seem to be excessively slow. If indeed it was submitted after the date and permission for an appeal needs to be sought then I would imagine they would have to cite some fairly important reasons to justify this and there is still possibility this will be thrown out before any trial hearing.

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George Adams – (Photo by Terry Harris)

So what does this mean?

Well, assuming it goes ahead then the case will be reheard in a Crown Court. This is a hugely risky strategy for the so called Countryside Alliance. Bearing in mind the original case was heard by a District Judge and not a normal Magistrate (which would normally be the case) the original decision may have more bearing. Also should the decision once again go against them the verdict will be written into case law, all hunts which use the Bird of Prey Exemption will have to use another method to circumnavigate the law as that one will have been proven in a Crown Court to be illegal. One wonders why the CA would put that at risk? Are they really that desperate to clear a retired huntsman’s name? Is it in fact the hunt which are pushing this to clear themselves of having a conviction next to the name? I’ve no doubt there will be a team of expensive lawyers in an office somewhere pawing over the law books looking for a chink of light with which they think they can overturn the original conviction. Both the CA and the Fitzwilliam certainly have the necessary resources to alloy this.

The only real concern is a more sympathetic judge for the defence. It wouldn’t be the first time a less than impartial member of the judiciary has ruled in a Hunting Act case and I doubt it will be the last. We can only hope that if it does go to court once again we get the same outcome with an impartial judge and we strengthen our case on this particular part of the Hunting Act. One has to wonder what their angle of attack will be considering the complete failure of the previous defence. I guess we’ll wait and see.

UPDATE: After a further conversation with the court liaison it would appear that the appeal was submitted just within the time limit. Apparently there was some sort of delay between the submission to the Magistrates Court for the appeal and that transferring to the Crown. Well, I’m going back to court . . .

I’ve had this blog post written for some time but due to an ongoing legal case I’ve held back it’s publication. That case has now been concluded (successfully) so it’s time for this to be in the public domain and may go some way to explain a few things when it comes to the policing of hunts.

I have long suspected that there was a high ranking police officer within our local hunt – The Oakley. In the past their supporters would often brag about it and claim it was down to this person that no action was ever taken against the hunt. You may remember I’ve blogged about this several times in the past and thought I was getting closer to revealing who this was. Each time my lines of inquiry came up short, sometimes I was well wide of the mark but that was largely due to information I was supplied which turned out to be inaccurate. (See here & here.) My suspicions initially arose when multiple police units would attend the hunt as well as air support which would stay on scene for a significant amount of time and at significant expense to the tax payer so it was easy to assume that only someone with some serious clout could authorise these kind of resources to be deployed and potentially leave other parts of the county dangerously low in policing.

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A incident from February 2015 during a visit to the Oakley Hunt. A helicopter was also present on the day. A fox was actually chased between these police cars.

I had never really given up trying to identify the person behind this, although due to one thing and another it had be pushed to the back burner and we seemed to be making progress in our dealings with Bedfordshire Police.

A Breakthrough

The Oakley’s opening meet of the season is always traditionally held at a venue called the Dower House in Melchbourne, Bedfordshire. The location is in the same village as the Oakley Kennels and in the heart of their country and support. This location has recently opened its doors as a business for hosting weddings. Their website is here.

Dower House

Quite a posh looking venue.

Now I seem to remember someone mentioning the owner as being a “Jason” and as this was now a registered business I popped over to companies house and did a search to see who indeed owned the business. Sure enough a Jason Gordon was listed as a Director, along with a female who I assumed was his wife, Alexandra Gordon.

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Screen shot from Companies House listing.

Now the logical next step was to do a quick Google search for Jason Gordon to see what popped up. Needless to say I think I’d found my man.

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Detective Chief Inspector Jason Gordon

So things were getting interesting now. We have a very senior police officer (Detective Chief Inspector) with connections to a hunt. Was he still a serving officer? A search for a Linked In profile produced this:

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It would seem he left the police around March 2015 and then took up the role of an Inspector with the HMIC. For those that don’t know the HMIC is the independent body which;

“Independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces and fire & rescue services – in the public interest.”

So in essence he works for the service that polices the police and was definitely an acting officer when the incidents of the multiple attending units took place. His role at that time was head of the Serious Crime Office for the tri-force area, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire. This guy had some serious clout and ironically also worked for the professional standards department!

Now bells were ringing loudly in my head, this guy looked very familiar and I recollected a couple of incidents from the past where we were treated exceptionally badly by the police present on the day. He was present at at least one of these but referred to himself ‘Jim’. Jason Gordon was known to his friends as Jim. So not only was Jim hosting the hunt as his house but it would seem he was a regular rider and someone of some influence not only with the police but also within the hunt. Further investigation revealed he was also listed as a master of the Oakley, from 1996-98 and again between 2004-06 which was incidentally the transition period when the ban on hunting with hounds came it.

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Jim Gordon at the Oakley Kennels last March.

If you look at the photo above you’ll notice the police vehicle in the background parked in the Oakley kennels. Had Jim been speaking to the officers present and using his previous position to influence they way they behaved? A couple of seasons ago a previous Master of the Oakley, Guy Napier was less an than impressed with the violent behaviour of the thugs that followed the Oakley and did their dirty work. This included assaulting monitors/sabs, theft of their equipment and preventing them from accessing public rights of way. However Mr Napier was clear he didn’t want the hunt to be associated with these people and in his defence they were instructed not to attend further Oakley meets. Unfortunately Mr Napier left the Oakley the following season and now the thugs have been welcomed back even though some now have multiple convictions for assault.

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Oakley Opening meet November 2017

I think it would be safe to assume that Mr Gordon (given his connections) would be well aware of the violent record of these people and willingly accepts them and their behaviour provided they are of service to the hunt. Here you can see Jim (with a female) once again riding with the Oakley. In front of him on the left hand image is Kelvin Pestel, hunt supporter and well known thug who is often present and likes to target female sabs in particular. Despite any protestations to the contrary, Mr Gordon is no doubt linked to them and accepts their thuggish actions.

So the implications seem fairly clear. Have we had a previously high ranking police officer and member of professional standards department bending the rules to suit his dirty little hobby and also wasting large sums of public money at the same time? Was he still using this influence to his advantage with local policing and was he advising the hunt on the best way to carry on hunting while remaining free from prosecution? The Oakley openly hunt and make no pretense of laying a trail or using any other exemptions. The image below was taken during one of their hunts last season, a day when Jim was once again riding with the hunt.

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Fox escapes the Oakley hounds – saved from death by sabs

We have built a good working relationship recently with Bedfordshire police with meetings and open discussions regarding hunting and the policing of, and I don’t believe any of the officers we met with were aware of this situation. If they were they certainly didn’t make it known to me. To say there was (and maybe still is) a conflict of interest here is an understatement and while people like Jason “Jim” Gordon are riding with hunts its easy to see why so little action against them takes place.

Although the HMIC is an independent body you may with to write to them and ask a few questions. They can be contacted here (Link). Should this man be part of an organisation whose role is described below? I don’t think so.

“Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces and fire & rescue services – in the public interest.

In preparing our reports, we ask the questions that citizens would ask, and publish the answers in accessible form, using our expertise to interpret the evidence and make recommendations for improvement.

We provide authoritative information to allow the public to compare the performance of their police force – and, in future, their fire & rescue service – against others. Our evidence is used to drive improvements in the services they provide to the public.”

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. . . the Fitzwilliam case. This will be my last comment on the saga so let’s crack on.

It would appear that there will be no appeal. I’d held off commenting further and releasing the footage to the general public just on the off chance that an appeal would be forthcoming even thought the stated time limit for any appeal had long since past. Just for the point of clarity the law states:

“52.12 – 2(b) where the court makes no such direction, and subject to the specific provision about time limits in rules 52.8 to 52.11 and Practice Direction 52D, 21 days after the date of the decision of the lower court which the appellant wishes to appeal.”

As the case was heard back in April I think I can now safely assume it’s all done and dusted. As I commented before there was plenty of noise coming from Tim Bonner of the so-called Countryside Alliance about appealing but it was very much left in the hands of the Huntsman George Adams who now retried, would gain little from another court appearance except perhaps increasing the chance of a heart attack.

The ramifications of this conviction in the wider hunting community may already be starting to take effect. A post by Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Sabs regarding the Easton Harriers highlighted the fact they were looking into purchasing a bird of prey in an effort to circumnavigate the law and allow them to keep killing our wildlife illegally. However these efforts appear to have been shelved once they realised that this exemption would no longer give them a suitable alibi. One has to wonder how many other hunts which have purchased birds are now reconsidering their options?

At the Trial

As part of my statement and evidence during the trial I submitted a detailed map I created using an aerial photograph and noted places where footage was taken and the approximate path of all concerned. While not 100% accurate (these thing can never be so) it was accepted by the court and used by the judge, the prosecution and the defence as a point of reference for the proceedings. This was actually quite an important aspect and it was never challenged by the defence in any way (see below).

map

Throughout the trial the defence’s main avenue of attack appeared to be based on 3 aspects.

(1) John Mease never had the opportunity to release the bird due to environmental restrictions (the fox was never in the open for sufficient time for a release).

(2) Sabs had turned the fox back into the hounds.

(3) To discredit the main witness (me) regarding the use of a hunting horn.

Defence Failures

(1) Defence barrister Stephen Welford put in a huge effort to clear Mease, something which he achieved however as described in an previous blog post this was due to the technicalities in the law and the control of the hounds and not through any of his own efforts. Under examination it became clear that Mease had claimed in his original statement that the fox had run in the clear for 120 metres and this should have been enough for him to release the bird if he wished to. However he also stated that he would never release the bird on grounds of safety if others were present, this would include members of the public, dog walkers and sabs. Once this was accepted to be the case then they would have to cease any and all actions in the pursuit of the quarry, in this case the fox the hounds would kill a short time later.

(2) This claim seems to be pretty standard tool in the defence’s box of dirty tricks. The problem in this case was once again the video evidence supplied. Even the video supplied by Mease himself undermined their own claims. Welford attempted to suggest on multiple occasions that sabs were responsible for the death of the fox due to their location and intervention. Our interaction was roughly as follows:

SW – “Do you accept that the fox was killed due to your actions?”

AA – “I do not.”

SW – “Do you accept that your presence lead to the hounds killing the fox in the field where you were located and that in fact you turned the fox into the hounds?”

AA – “I do not – further to that the video speaks for itself. Look at the video evidence. At the point where the hounds are killing the fox the only persons present at that location (a different field from my location) are riding horses and wearing red hunting jackets”.

(3) Another underhand attempt at discrediting me as a witness was the claim that I was using a hunting horn. Horns can certainly be heard on the video but it certainly wasn’t I who was using one. Welford asked the question several times;

“Did you have in your possession a horn and use it at any time?”

My answer was clear – “No, I didn’t have a horn on that day”.

Welford then fast forwarded the video to a point after the kill and froze the image. The image showed a horn in my hand. Taken out of context this would appear to show me as being dishonest in the court. This was however, of no concern to me. Even though Welford thought he’d caught me out I knew where he was going with this and was ready with an explanation.

I asked the court to rewind the video to another point and then play again. During the scuffle after the hounds had killed the fox you can clearly see me pick up a horn which had been dropped on the ground. Where this came from I still have no idea, however it proved to the court that prior to the kill I wasn’t in possession of a hunting horn. I have to admit to feeling quite smug over that one. For someone clearly being paid a lot of money Welford had failed completely and the expression on his face said enough.

Watch the video and draw your own conclusions. I have edited the end a little as the main points relative to the case are prior to the death of the fox and the scuffle over the body is largely irrelevant. One final point is the claim that Adams, at no point saw the fox. This seems somewhat unlikely given it ran right past him and he admitted to hunting this area several times in a season and would know where any likely quarry will run.

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It’s always disappointing when I hear of cases being dropped by the police or CPS due to lack of evidence or their belief that they don’t think they will get a conviction regardless of the evidence. While some cases are clearly less than certain bearing in mind the limitations of the legislation and the need to prove intent, others would appear to be in the public interest to proceed with. The case submitted by the excellent Cheshire Monitors would appear to be a prime example of this (see here). This is blatant cubbing and a prime example of why the law needs to be strengthened. Every rider in the video is guilty of helping to commit a crime and yet the current legislation doesn’t allow for that.

However it’s not all bad news and this brings me to the point of this blog entry.

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Fox killed by the Thurlow on Boxing Day

You may remember I wrote about the kill the Thurlow Hunt made on Boxing Day last year (see here). We submitted video evidence of the whole incident and provided statements to Suffolk Police who acted in a professional manner with the investigation. Now the justice system in the UK can’t ever be described as either quick or efficient and as the months drew on I was beginning to wonder when we would get a decision from the CPS as to how this would progress.

However I’m happy to report that the Huntsman and Whipper In will have to appear in court to answer the charges in relation to the Hunting Act and also for Assault.

This is of course great news.

With one prosecution already under our collective belts we’re confident that we can secure another and again highlight the criminality taking place in our countryside and make the perpetrators pay for their crimes. No doubt they will plead not guilty and I’ll get to lock horns with CA go to man Stephen Welford again but we’ve beaten him once so can do it again. As I’ve said before, with solid evidence and truth on your side it makes things a little easier.

It was also pleasing to note that the fox cub killers at the South Herefordshire Hunt will finally face the courts. Huge respect goes to the Hunt Investigation Team for their tireless work on this. The further revelations that came to light shortly after the breaking of the original story that the reason for the delays was the smear campaign against the investigating officer (see here). It is quite frankly a disgrace that this officer had to suffer this treatment while the real criminals were walking free. It also shows the levels in which the hunting community will stoop in an effort to subvert the course of justice and cover their own arses, regardless of the horrors committed in the name of their grubby little hobby. I would hope the person who made these outrageous allegations will be investigated themselves for wasting police time but that’s probably too much to hope for.

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It would seem that there will be no appeal of the Fitzwilliam case (see here). The time has now run out to submit an appeal and at the time of writing I haven’t been informed of any further proceedings. Although the CA made lots of noise about it at the time it was very much left in the hands of the huntsman, George Adams. His performance in court left a lot to be desired and came across as a very poor witness. He’s clearly decided he would rather not go through all that again and as he’s now retired would seem somewhat pointless.

Finally a hello to all the hunt types who read this blog. It’s good you read another point of view (you may learn something) and boost my figures. A special nod goes to the lovely chap who recognised me at the weekend after we packed up the Dove Valley Mink (Otter) Hounds meet he was attending. Fame wasn’t really something I sought out but it was nice anyway and made me smile. I guess I must be doing something right.