Posts Tagged ‘Conviction’

So it’s been a very busy week.

It’s pretty common knowledge now that the Fitzwilliam Hunt have initiated court proceedings against both myself and pretty much every other sab they know of (and some they don’t) in the form of an injunction. Obviously the purpose of this injunction is to remove the very people (from the countryside) who document their illegal activities and who have brought them to justice in the past.

Injunctions are nothing new in hunting. I wrote about a case involving the Crawley & Horsham (see here) and prior to the hunting ban the Brocklesby and the Fitzwilliam themselves were granted injunctions against anti-hunt activists, which I believe still stand, however pre-ban injunctions can’t really be compared with the current situation, the times they are a changing!

Obviously it would be very easy for us to let the injunction go unchallenged, after all legal proceedings like this are VERY expensive and the Fitzwilliam have Sir Philip Naylor-Leyland (4th Baronet) at their helm, a man of vast wealth and land ownership. It’s a name not shy of appearing in the UK’s top 1000 rich list and reportedly worth in the region of £174 million (2016).

And this is where their sense of entitlement comes from.

I’ve always been of the opinion that certain types of person, when pushed into a corner will always revert to type and throw whatever they have the most of at the problem. Old Phil is throwing his money at the issue in an attempt to buy the hunt impunity from  any sort of monitoring or prosecution. (See the Canary story here).

What has really warmed my heart and put some of my faith back into humanity is the overwhelming response we’ve had from the good old British General Public. We were never really sure how well our Crowd Justice funding would do and we prepared as best we could and made sure the word really got out on social media but ultimately we needn’t have worried. On the first day alone it raised over £6000 and had reached it’s target of £12000 only 2 days later. The stats make very interesting reading with the average donation being £21 and those donations coming from a huge demographic and age rage which once again proves that hunting and the people behind it truly are universally despised. We are of course hugely grateful to each and every person who donated. We couldn’t have carried this through without them.

What next?

We have employed a good legal team and will face them in the High Court on the 1st November. We all feel that it’s our duty to fight this, not only so we can continue to monitor hunts and call them to account but also for the rights of the common person. We simply cannot let it stand that those wealthy enough can simply buy their own laws and protection. This goes further than just hunting, this is about our right to protest, be that hunting or fracking, a genuine David vs Goliath and make no bones about it, we have a rock in our proverbial slingshot and we’re taking aim.

. . . 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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