Posts Tagged ‘Bird of Prey exemption’

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.

Well after a brief break from blogging and another trip north of the border in what had to be the coldest week of the summer (it barely got above 13-14°C for the whole week) I’m back to catch up with whats been going on.

One story which obviously came to my attention was the death of 10 hounds and the injury to a cyclist after the collision with a car. The hounds in question belonged to the Cottesmore Hunt, you may remember them from a season ago when their terrier men assaulted sabs and one of their supporters brandished a heavy chain, swinging it wildly like a maniac which could have caused serious injury had it connected with its intended target  (incidentally no charges were forthcoming from Leicestershire Police, surprise surprise).

Obviously no-one from either side of the hunting debate would wish a tragic event like this but one has to question the reality of the situation and the reaction from supporters of hunting. While I don’t know the full details the hunt supporters were very quick to apportion blame, both on the driver of the vehicle and, you guessed it – sabs.

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Where the incident happened

It’s very easy to jump to conclusion without knowing the full facts however having observed hounds being exercised and transferred along country roads you have to question the sense and logic behind how this takes place. Having a kennel man on a bicycle with a whip on what is likely to be a bendy country road with a full pack of hounds (probably at least 15 couple) is obviously a recipe for disaster. Dogs do not have any idea of road safety and that many hounds could easily fill a narrow country lane and with these on a blind bend then the outcome is hardly surprising. This isn’t the first time hounds have been killed while being exercised (see here ) and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. Was the driver speeding as the hunt supporters claim or were they merely an innocent party going about their business who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

What was even more laughable were the claims that this was actually the work of sabs. Just think about that for a moment. A sab intentionally drove their vehicle at speed into a pack of hounds.

To say it’s utterly ridiculous is an understatement.

First off most sabs are vegans. Harming any animal goes against the very ethos of veganism and the ideal by which we live. We believe hounds are as big a victim of hunting as the animals they are trained and forced to hunt. Even ignoring this the legal ramifications of potentially losing ones license make the stupidity of those actions only bettered by the morons who suggested it in the first place. Here are a few of those comments posted on a pro hunting Facebook group.

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Aren’t they all just wonderful? One has to question where and how this rumour started? The same old tired and jaded stereotypical opinions such as claims of being hypocrits and their usual favourite (terrorists) are being wheeled out once more without any shred of evidence to support the claims but then this is of course nothing new and hardly unexpected.

As it turns out this proved to be somewhat of an embarrassment for that particular group and it had to delete all the comments blaming sabs and publish a post contradicting all those slathering hunt supporters looking to blame.

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Well at least that’s cleared up then but was the driver really out of control? It should also be noted that the driver of the vehicle hasn’t been charged with any traffic offences so the police clearly believe none had taken place which would suggest the claims by the hunt that they were out of control are also innacurate. Regardless of that what are the necessary requirement for exercising a large number of hound on a public road? I’m fairly sure Joe public would’t be allowed to walk a large number of dogs who weren’t controlled by a lead on a public highway. As hunting hounds come under the classification of working dogs the same laws don’t apply – perhaps they should.

Finally the longest hunting case in history (I made that up but it certainly feels like it) will be resolved on the 14th January 2019, a full 3 years after the offence took place. This will be the appeal of convicted Fitzwilliam huntsman George Adams. Let’s hope we can get this written into case law at the crown court and finally the ridiculous Bird of Prey Exemption can be written into history.

 

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 . . .

. . . 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).

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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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