So here we are and another start of a new year.

For a change my own festive period was relatively quiet compared to previous years and for that at least I’m thankful. While this was not necessarily the case country wide discussions in our sab wagon certainly seemed to conclude that many hunts in our area at least were keen to avoid any unnecessary and negative press by being caught killing wildlife. Many of the hunts which traditionally take place on Boxing Day and New Years Day were met with demonstrations and this is of course great news. While demo’s won’t save lives in the fields they are important in showing the real feeling among the general public and they have, overwhelmingly, had enough. Hunters and their supporters live in a bubble of their own propaganda and self justification, having middle England turn out on a cold and miserable day waving placards and shouting at them goes some way in bursting that bubble. It also shows the supporters of hunting for what they really are as they resort to abuse and violence in response – they know no other way.

While Timmy and his cronies at the so-called Countryside Alliance were on overtime and once again claiming record turn outs in support of these hunt meets it was abundantly clear, more so than ever, that hunting really is on the decline.

Not so long ago hunts would have had large turnouts in both riders and foot support for these events. They would have hunted on regardless of monitor or sab activity but now that’s simply not the case. Some hunts just chose to parade, the Cambridge with Enfield Chace haven’t hunted for the last few years at their Eltisley Boxing Day meet after they were embarrassingly sent home by the police after killing fox in 2016. The road & green used to be chock-a-block with cars and 4×4’s and getting a drink in the pub would be impossible. As far as I’m aware the pub is no longer hosting the meet and they just now meet on the village green. Just look at this aerial shot we took, the turnout is, to be frank, utterly pathetic.

CEC

Pathetic for a Boxing Day meet.

One has to wonder why they even bothered. Surely its embarrassing to see such a crappy turnout and pointless to get all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The Fitzwilliam faced concerted opposition on New Year’s Day meet at Wansford. Around 50 people turned out to voice their disapproval and there was also some humour thrown in for good measure.

NC

We agree.

Fitzwilliam Master Philip Baker seemed a bit riled by the anti-hunt sentiment in the crowd and this photo speaks volumes.

nc2

Philip Baker looking a bit concerned, or constipated, could be either.

Another amusing part of that day for us was watching the hunt trotting up the road with a police escort to where all their horse boxes were parked, turning in and all the support parking their vehicles further on at the side of the road, getting out with their binoculars expecting to see the hunt carry on out that back of the farm and start hunting. What they actually saw was some empty Cambridgeshire fields with a few sad looking cows and nothing more. The Hunt had clearly neglected to tell their support that they’d got out of bed for nothing as they put their horses away and buggered off with their tales between their legs.

We had this all confirmed by the police as we chatted with them while they left. While some forces and officers are clearly pro hunt and biased this particular officer we know from the past and was the same one which sent the Cambridge and Enfield Chace home a few years earlier.

Some demo’s got a little bit tasty as drunken hunt support tried to take control of the proceedings and the police had to intervene. A member of East Kent Sabs sustained a nasty injury as he was attacked by hunt hooligans at a meet of East Kent with West Street Hunt and the Atherstone Hunt supporters were predictably aggressive.

What these morons fail to comprehend is that this type of behaviour only strengthens our claims that the hunts are nothing more than organised crime organisations followed by low life thugs and hooligans. The chocolate box image they try and portray has now long gone, the Great British public see them for what they really are and are now finding their voices an making their feelings known.

Finally I’d like to say hi to this chap, Matthew Higgs:

IMG-20190102-WA0000

He was following of the Old Berkeley Beagles who’ve been sabbed a couple of times recently but better known for his connection to the Trinity Foot Beagles and also an avid reader of my blog. Thanks for increasing my viewing figures Matthew but if you really must quote me please get your facts right first, it just makes you look a bit daft.

Happy New Year.

First off apologies for the lack of updates, this time of year is stupidly busy as the hunting season reaches it’s zenith over the holiday period. Most people who take an interest in our activities will have no doubt heard the story of the Fitzwilliam hound tragically killed on the A14 recently (full story here) and I’m not going to go over it all again but instead perhaps offer what could be an explanation as to why it happened in the first place.

Now after the incident the pro hunt side were very quick in going into damage limitation mode and discredit the images and video supplied by those that were there. These ranged from the daft to the downright ridiculous. The most common claim was that the hound in the picture was in fact a Labrador and even one said it was a giant Corgi, seriously, I kid you not. There were also claims the fox (which was clear to see by all but the most myopic) was a pheasant and as expected that it was the fault of sabs for calling the hounds on to the road.

At this point I feel the need to dispel any of the pro hunt myths that this is something any sab would consider. The harming of any animal is so contrary to the very basis of our ideology that it is utterly laughable. We know that both hounds and horses are also victims of the hunting business and not just the wildlife that is hunted and killed.

Moving on tt’s pretty clear in the video that if it wasn’t for the actions of the sabs present then the incident could have been a significantly worse and it was only down to their actions that not more hounds and indeed people that were killed on a very fast bit of dual carriageway.

So lets put a bit of context to how the Fitzwilliam were hunting on that day.

As is usual they were claiming to follow a trail but also had resident budgie trainer John Mease skulking about with his Eagle although some distance from the hounds. This dual lie is of course complete nonsense and not legal in any sense but just to add a little extra to the pot lets have a look at the land on which they were hunting.

Map1

OS map of the location

The A14 is the large green road showing diagonally across the map above. The wind was very blustery and blowing from the north. Now you could quite easily suggest that even being that close to the A14 with a loose pack of hounds to be highly questionable at best, and at worst, just completely reckless. Lets take a look closer from Google.

Map1a

Close up of the incident area

There’s a small covert called George’s Thorns in the bottom right corner of the photo (the one shown in full). Let’s take a guess who owns that . . .

The Milton Estate, or in simpler terms, the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

The other day I was sent a couple of photos and a short explanation of what they were showing by an anonymous supporter. They pointed out that in that covert is a badger sett. A badger sett which had very recently been interfered with which is of course illegal in itself. It looked like it had been dug out and refilled. We all know the role of terrier men within the hunt. Their sole purpose has nothing to do with mending fences but to dig out or bolt foxes when they seek sanctuary underground.

Here are the pictures.

IMG-20181217-WA0001

IMG-20181217-WA0000

This area has clearly been created by human activity. You can see spade marks in the earth and the area has been cleared of growth and the usual detritus one would assume on the edge of a wood. It’s then obviously been back filled after whatever activity had been completed.

Now consider that a fox was seen and filmed fleeing the hounds from the direction of the covert in question. Had the Fitzwilliam hunted a fox to ground and then dug it out prior to the hound being killed on the road? They were certainly unaware of the presence of sabs at that location as they were on a footpath a short distance away but hidden from view by a hedge and reports from the day suggest hounds had been speaking prior to the incident. If they believed they were away from prying eyes they may have been empowered enough to commit these acts of criminality.

If they did indeed dig out the fox it would only go further in suggesting they were desperate for a kill, underestimated (or simply didn’t care about) the wind direction which blew the scent of the fox over the A14 and are thus even more implicit in the death of one of their own hounds, if that’s possible!

Map2

I’ve added some annotations and graphics to the Google image to explain. Let’s go over the facts.

1 – The Fitzwilliam Hunt own George’s Thorn covert.

2 – Coverts are traditionally kept for hunting purposes.

3 – There is a badger sett in George’s Thorn covert which has been dug out very recently.

4 – A fox was observed and filmed running from the direction of the covert with the hounds in pursuit on the day in question.

5 – The riding field were in an ideal position to view all the action and obviously placed there by the field master.

6 – The wind was blowing from the North.

7 – The fox escaped in the drainage ditch next to the A14.

8 – John Mease was a significant distance away.

9 – A hound was killed on the A14, possibly following the scent of the fox as it blew over the dual carriageway.

10 – The Huntsman (Simon Hunter) was nowhere to be seen and left it to Whipper In Shaun Parish to deal with the mess.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Finally I hope all my readers have a great holiday break. Why not walk off some of that Christmas dinner and visit your local hunt, there are several demo’s taking place so pop along and show these wildlife abusers what the Great British public really think about their sordid little minority pastime. There’s a list of demos on the HSA Facebook page.

 

I guess now that the ink is dry on deal, or mores the point the PDF documents have been signed, I can enlighten the very many of you who have expressed an interest in the Fitzwilliam Injunction saga. If you’re not fully up to date then you can catch up here and here. OK, so assuming you know what’s been occurring I’ll fill you in on the rest of the details.

At the end of last week our legal representative was contacted by the Fitzwilliam’s legal team with an offer. That offer amounted to dropping those named from the injunction, with no claims made to costs provided we signed an agreement not to trespass on the claimants land. The claimants would still be pursuing an injunction against persons unknown.

Now this may seem to be not a particularly good deal but in this instance you need to consider the wider context.

Firstly, it was pretty clear that the Fitzwilliam were very keen to avoid a full trial against those named on the injunction. The legitimacy of their evidence and in particular their hunting methods had been seriously called into question by Mr Justice Freedman, along with the behaviour of their so called hunt stewards. Had the Fitzwilliam felt they were in a strong position they would have pushed on regardless.

Secondly, their claims for harassment, trespass against goods and the utterly laughable claims of assault were denied by the judge. Mr Freedman also noted that assaults did appear to have been carried out by the hunt staff and this could be followed up by the victims should they wish, causing another potential embarrassment for the hunt.

Thirdly, there would be no claims for costs. It was estimated that the hunt had spent in excess of £120,000 in bringing this injunction. That’s enough to make even the most financially wealthy hunt think seriously about taking out similar action and this is what we wanted to achieve. Most hunts rely on local land owners to allow them to hunt, the Fitzwilliam are one of the few who own a significant amount of land on which to hunt however they still leave this land for a large amount of their hunt season. With this in mind you have to ask yourself, did they get value for money?

Not really.

All they ended up with was a list of people who couldn’t trespass but could still use public rights of way and open access land within their estate. That’s not really a huge achievement given the level of investment. Their actual hunt country is in the region of 384,000 acres, they only actually own just over 4% of that. Now while they are pushing ahead with the persons unknown part of the injunction it is still a civil action and not something the police can get involved with. Sure, if you break the injunction the claimants can serve you and a judge could send you to prison for contempt of court however for that to happen the claimants have to know who you are. If previous junctions with regards to persons unknown are anything to go by, they would appear to be almost impossible to enforce.

The single biggest factor in favour of the hunt was the level of financial clout they could bring to bear for this undertaking. As normal working people we had no hope of raising the funds necessary to take this to full trial and with the outcome in question there was a real danger of losing what assets we have, had the case not gone our way. Simply put, there was no way I, or any of the others were going to lose their houses over this. All of the named defendants were of course hugely grateful to all the people who donated, some who shall remain nameless pledging some significant sums but having the funds to fight this was only half the story and no reduction in the final risk of having costs awarded against us.

Now the Fitzwilliam and their supporters may think differently, but the simple fact is we came out of this saga a whole lot better than they did.

Finally the costs of achieving this have exceeded what our original Crowd Justice funding covered and has left some of us significantly out of pocket. Please consider helping by donating here: Financial Costs

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.