Posts Tagged ‘Bird of Prey exemption’

. . . 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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I had a call only the other day and a familiar voice spoke to me.

“Hi, it’s John, there’s been another change”.

My immediate thoughts were along the lines of “Oh FFS what now?” but before I could go any further John (the witness care officer for the CPS) informed me of the change.

“The date has been moved to next Wednesday and we’re back at Peterborough Magistrates”.

Now this seemed a little odd. Those of you who have been keeping up to date with the long running Fitzwilliam court case saga will no doubt already know that this high profile case has now been awaiting trial for well over 2 years. There have been multiple delays due to various reasons including what I believe to be the attempted derailment of the case by the CA and most notably “court politics”, that means not being able to find an impartial judge. The main reason the location was moved out of county originally was to try and lesson the chance of any conflict of interest with regards to the judge knowing the defendants however that probably now makes little difference.

John went on to explain that they had only found out about the changes by accident and were now desperately trying to inform all the witnesses. Was this an attempt to scupper the case somehow by not informing those required to attend? Later on I spoke to the investigating officer and he was as shocked as I. It was the first they’d heard of it and would now have to allocate resources to the day.

Adams_Mease

Adams (left) & Mease.

So at least it was still going ahead and I will be giving evidence along with a colleague from another sab group on Wednesday (4th) while the expert witness will be speaking on Thursday. There are 2 cases to answer, 2 counts of illegal hunting (George Adams now retired Fitzwilliam huntsman and John Mease, current BoP handler) and another of cruelty to a protected species (John Mease).

As I’ve mentioned before the outcome of this case could have serious and wider implications regarding the use of raptors in an effort to circumnavigate the Hunting Act. I believe we have a very good case compared to the normal trail hunting cases we’ve seen recently. In those instances you have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was intent to hunt the animal in question, the hunts will use the “accident” alibi to cover themselves and its difficult to prove otherwise.

By using the BoP exemption the intent to hunt is already there. What comes into question is have the hunt staff taken all necessary measures to call off the hounds once the animal has been flushed and has the bird has been released?

Nothing is certain in Hunting Act cases, but given a prosecutor who knows their stuff and an honest judge I hope for a successful outcome but regardless of whether we achieve a guilty or innocent verdict in the eyes of the court, getting them there is a victory in itself and anyone who witnessed the incident on the day will know the truth.

I’ll publish more details after the case along with the video footage I took.

If anyone wishes to attend and make their feelings known on hunting then please do however I ask you behave in a suitable manner.

If you’ve been keeping up with developments you’d have read my blog entry from last week that was in response to a statement the Fitzwilliam Hunt put out. Well interestingly they’ve responded and this made me very happy indeed.

Firstly thanks for the extra hits guys, I really appreciated it. It’s nice to know my blog is being read by both sides.

Secondly (and most amusingly) they’ve chosen to respond regarding the use of Citronella. Now my original blog post highlighted many issues regarding the illegal activities of the Fitzwilliam. The questionable use of a Bird of Prey, the presence of terrier men, the blocking up of Badger setts, the legality of trespass and access to private land and the laying of non-existent trails. Are we then to assume that they have conceded on all the above points I raised as truth, and they have nothing else as a counter argument? I wonder if they will issue another statement? Do you think they will hire a lawyer (they can certainly afford one) or get another deluded and indoctrinated teenager to write a heartfelt but ultimately nonsensical response?

There statement on the use of Citronella can be seen below.

Citronella.png

It’s fairly clear they gave someone the job of doing a bit of research on citronella and they’ve quoted chapter and verse from the data sheet. However this has backfired on them in a pretty significant way. The response from the fabulous British general public was spectacular.

Response 1.png

So OK for use on children. Good to know.

Response 2.png

Some nice science there. I like science.

Response 3.png

Everything carries a potential hazard notice. It clears the manufacturers of any possible claims in the unlikely event of any reaction.

Response 4

I agree, not even neat Citronella can cover their desperation.

Response 5

Embarrassing indeed.

The above comments as only a small selection of the responses, the vast majority anti-hunt, factual and highly critical. If hunting is to survive it needs to take a long hard look at itself. Stop hunting live quarry, adopt the clean boot or drag, show some respect to other people and their  property and get with the times. Its a tiny minority pastime and the British public are deeply ashamed of what you do and what you represent. This archaic tradition is no excuse for cruelty, it’s time to adapt or go the way of the Dodo.

Bonus blog post this week as I just had to respond to something which appeared on Facebook. Regular readers will no doubt be aware of my own personal battle with the Fitzwilliam Hunt and getting them to court to face justice over the killing of a fox on New Years Day 2016. Of course the delays wouldn’t stop our combined operations against them with other local groups and most notably North Cambs Hunt Sabs as it’s their local hunt.

I’d always say the more success you have against these people the more they’ll come out with lies and fabrications to discredit us and restore their ever thinning veneer of credibility. These outbursts are nothing more than spitting out their combined dummies and are easily picked apart. Let me demonstrate. Below is a statement from their Facebook page, a page where they said they would never mention antis or sabs.

Fitz

Fitzwilliam Hunt Facebook Statement

1 – We have changed practices to comply with the Hunting Act. Well, not really or you wouldn’t be in court this April. Simple one that. They always seem forget this, I wonder why?

2 – Exercising hounds and horses together, hunting a laid trail, using hounds to flush a fox into the open when it can be taken by a bird of prey. The Fitzwilliam have never just exercised hounds. Why is there always a terrier man present if they are just exercising or following a trail for that matter. Indeed the last time we saw them with a trail layer he was some distance behind the hounds with the grubby rag flapping about 3 feet off the ground. On the same day John Mease (their BoP handler and co-defendant in the case) was also there. One could safely assume that you’re either following a trail or you admit to hunting live quarry by flushing to the BoP. They CANNOT legally combine these. Were they following a trail or flushing to an Eagle when all their hounds rampaged through the village of Upwood recently?

While we’re on the subject of that it should be noted that the legality of using the BoP is questionable a best. I covered the subject in more depth here but when hunts started using this loophole Defra stated:

“Employing (whether or not released to hunt) a bird of prey which does not ordinarily hunt that particular wild mammal [would be illegal], because, in our view, it suggests that the flushing was not for the purpose of enabling the bird of prey to hunt the mammal.” The falconry exemption allowed dogs to flush out wild mammals for the birds to hunt but not to “run after, chase or pursue the wild mammal after it has been flushed out. Nor does the exemption allow the dog(s) to kill the wild mammal.” Britain’s second biggest bird of prey, the Golden Eagle, only takes small fox cubs in the wild. Up to 30 hunts are believed to have bought birds of prey in an attempt to test the act”.

mease

John Mease

3 – Whilst doing this, we are harassed by men and women (many are masked) who abuse us, behave in an intimidating way, trespass repeatedly on private land and spray wildlife habitat and our horses and hounds with noxious sprays, all with the intent of preventing our lawful activity. Firstly we don’t wear masks and neither do the sabs from our comrades North Cambs. Some groups attending do so and that’s their right. We don’t intimidate, we turn up and monitor and step in when they hunt live quarry. As they are displaying all the required criteria of an illegal hunt it is our right to prevent this from happening and as such can legally access private land to do so. Trespass is a civil offence, the Hunting Act is criminal.

Their mention of wildlife habitat is quite frankly insulting to the intelligence of anyone who reads their post. They don’t give a stuff about wildlife. Only last week we had to report on a badger sett which was illegally blocked by their terrier man (on their own land) to stop foxes escaping. The thick clay earth had sett like concrete and the danger to the Badgers trapped underground was clear. This isn’t the first time they’ve done this, they are habitual sett blockers and North Cambs have even caught the terrier man in the act! Let’s face it a pack of hunting hounds charging through the countryside along with a whole bunch of horses isn’t exactly good for any wildlife. We see all sorts of birds and animals scattering in all directions in utter terror.

Sabs don’t carry noxious sprays. We use citronella, a non-toxic essential oil mixed with water that has a lemony smell that can mask the scent of a fox. It’s totally harmless. We’ve never spray hounds or horses, any animal cruelty goes against our very ethos. These are simply badly constructed lies, swallowed by those who live in the sad little bubble inhabited by the hunt themselves.

terrier man

Fitzwilliam terrier man caught red handed

4 – The many, vindictive and confused posts on local Hunt Saboteur group pages suggest they have at best a flawed understanding of the law regarding hunting and no regard for the law regarding trespass or our right to pursue lawful activity. They may think they have the right to enforce their views on us, but they don’t. Now they  really are struggling with reality. We report on what happened on Facebook. It may not be the truth they want to hear but you can’t argue with the facts. Our understanding of the law has to be spot on otherwise we’d be arrested in no time at all. Funny how they are the ones going to court and yet no sabs. They keep mentioning “lawful activity” but it’s patently clear that’s nonsense as I’ve already explained.

So that’s enough for now. Rest assured we take this as a victory, proof indeed that our efforts are having an effect and judging by the poor turnout over the festive period it seems the message is getting through.

Photos courtesy of North Cambs Hunt Sabs