Posts Tagged ‘Civil Injunction’

As you can probably tell by the lack of updates I’ve been pretty busy.

This time of year is always the most time consuming for those in the wildlife protection business. The cruel and unnecessary badger cull is in full swing and sab teams across the country are travelling many miles to save as many lives as they can. It’s also cubbing season so those not involved in anti-cull activities are getting up at the crack of dawn to target those hunts participating in that vile activity, all the time having to fit in time for work and their families.

Speaking of work . . .

I’ve always been of the opinion that you can measure your success against your enemy by the lengths to which they will go to try and discredit you or remove completely from the game as it were. Since my involvement in several well publicised court cases my identity became fairly well known. Due to this I’ve had car loads of hunt thugs trying to intimidate me outside my house, I was part of the injunction that the Fitzwilliam Hunt tried to unsuccessfully bring against a group of sabs who were constantly highlighting their criminality, I’ve had calls at home and threats to my partner. My home has now security cameras installed and the police applied a marker to my property and number, this means I get a priority response in the event of a 999 call. Not so long ago I had someone from the pro hunt side contact my work and make a complaint about me . . . and it’s happened again.

A letter was sent to the UK head of the company I work for which was then handed to HR and made it’s way down to my boss who spoke to me about it. Of course my employers aren’t in the slightest bothered about what I do, mainly because it’s got nothing to do with them and it’s perfectly legal. Provided I don’t bring the company into disrepute then it’s all good. The other issue was of course that the letter was sent anonymously. Come on guys, if you don’t have the courage behind you’re conviction then your claims are effectively meaningless and will be filed in the nearest recycling bin.

nelson

Indeed they did Nelson . . .

Having seen the letter and the photos of me that it contained my boss thought it rather amusing, apparently there were some good action shots of me running around in the countryside. Hardly earth shattering stuff. After further discussion with sabs from other groups it would appear that I’m not the only one who has been targeted at their place of work. So the question is, is this and organised effort or is it just coincidence?

Either way all their attempts have fallen well short of their intended outcome, in fact they were complete failures. What the pro hunt side fail to comprehend is that they don’t have the support of the wider general public and that is more than likely to include those employers that sabs work for.

Simply put, they are (and I’m going to coin a phrase by a friend of mine) “the desperate flailings of a drowning organisation”.

Single hand of drowning man in sea asking for help

UPDATE: I held back the publication of this blog until I actually had a copy of the letter that was sent to my employers. Now I’ve seen it I have to say I’m a little disappointed by it’s contents. It’s almost as if someone from the CA wrote a standard list of lies (that’s all it is, a list) with all the usual “animal rights extremist” claims and then added my name to the top and references to this blog and the Beds & Bucks sab group. It’s poorly constructed and there’s absolutely ZERO information in there to make any employee concerned and the best they can come up with is some nonsense about aggravated trespass and harassment of hunt staff, which as we all know it utter hogwash. Maybe they should contact the Fitzwilliam and Thurlow hunts and ask them about their legal activities? Funny how they missed those little gems out.

The photographs were quite amusing but, come on guys, try and get something more up-to-date. Most of those are at least 3 years old, have you got nothing better? And one final thing, I know it’s probably something you don’t understand but no-one uses that font any more, much like your little minority hobby, it’s just ugly.

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.

 

So if you’ve been keeping up with my blog you’ll know that we’re fighting an injunction brought by the Fitzwilliam Hunt in an effort to stop us holding them to account for their blatantly illegal hunting. You can read more about it here (We’re In It to Win it).

The initial hearing at the High Court in London was last Thursday (1st November) and we were originally informed by the judge that his decision would be this week. Now we’ve been told that the decision won’t be ready until the 16th November which is somewhat frustrating (as this allows the Fitzwilliam to hunt in the mean time without any monitoring) but at least he’s taking time to consider it properly.

Nothing is ever certain in the British legal system, especially in complex cases such as this. Their argument is based purely around trespass and our defence is their illegal hunting, something which they’ve already been convicted of (Good Enough) and certainly should be a major consideration for the judge as no injunction should be granted if it allows the claimant to undertake an illegal activity. I have detailed notes from our day in court but at this time I’m somewhat reluctant to publish any details for fear of prejudicing the case. In due course I’ll release these details.

Needless to say the so-called Countryside Alliance were in attendance in the form of Polly Portwin, famous for telling huge porkies on national TV in relation to the purpose of Terrier Men on a supposed trail hunt.

Although we reached our original funding target (huge thanks to all who donated so far) our costs are still rising so I’d encourage you to keep sharing and tweeting our link, we’re going to need every penny and this may not be the end of it. Once we get a decision from the judge some serious consideration will need to go into our next step, but for now we’re just waiting to see what the future may hold.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/fighting-the-fitz-injunction/

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