Posts Tagged ‘Fitzwilliam Hunt’

Well that’s it, for the first time in almost 4 year I no longer have to concern myself with any court proceedings. It’s quite a relief to be honest.

On Monday (21/10) and Tuesday I, along with some colleagues had to attend Ipswich Crown Court for the appeal of the convictions we secured against the Thurlow Hunt last March (see here). We expected there would another full trial which would probably last for 3 or 4 days as Hunting Act cases are never straightforward.

However while driving to the court I had a weird feeling that the defence were going to offer a deal. I can’t explain why I had this feeling, I just did, and that turned out to be the case.

On my arrival I first spoke to the investigating officer from Suffolk Police and then the prosecuting QC, the excellent Richard Kelly. He explained what had been taking place in my absence prior to any further action actually in the court.

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The huntsman, Christopher Amatt would withdraw his appeal against the Hunting Act conviction if we no longer pursued the conviction for common assault.

Now some people have commented on our Facebook page that we should have gone for both but we need to be honest with ourselves here and look at the whole context of the case and also the likelihood of losing everything.

Firstly everyone involved in the first case was surprised we managed to get the conviction for assault. From my own point of view and the rest of those involved that charge was not particularly important, it was always the Hunting Act charge that was our main priority and something we were very keen not to lose out on. It was the police and CPS who drove the assault charges, even after the event it was not something I had even considered. So getting the hunting conviction in the bag was a no-brainer as far as I was concerned. That would effectively be the end of it.

We were to learn later on the reasoning behind their decision to abandon the hunting charge and that was Amatt’s requirement to travel to the USA for personal reasons, something he would be unable to do with a conviction for violence.

All that left now was the assault case against Archie Clifton-Brown.

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Now the problem we faced here was that the arguments would be very specific and not have the considerations of the wider context of the whole hunting case. In the previous case it was very clear both defendants were telling a whole pack of lies and I believe the judge saw this and simply applied the logic that they were lying with regards to the assault. Take away this wider context and the judge was simply looking a Archie’s words against mine along with the video of the incident.

The defence maintained it was Archie’s right to secure the body of the fox as this was the property of the estate and this was all he was trying to do. Obviously from my point of view that was complete nonsense, they were clearly trying to hide the evidence, which I was attempting to secure. Once again I was up against Peter Glenser QC, the Countryside Alliance‘s go-to man for high profile legal cases. It was also interesting to hear him read a quote this blog in court, I wonder if he’s reading this now, or maybe its the legal assistant in the form of Stephen Welford? Anyway, nice to have people from all sides reading what I write whether they agree with it or not.

They put some effort into making Archie look like the little lost boy who was only acting under orders and me, the black clad, highly experienced animal rights activist to whom this was all water off a ducks back. They even played footage of me from the Fitzwilliam case but that was fine by me as I reckon that showed me in a pretty good light.

Once again the judge described me as a straightforward and credible witness however the defence team had done their job and put enough doubt in the judges mind and he granted the appeal.

To be honest, I really didn’t give a toss. Of course it would have been nice to have the conviction upheld but this whole case was, from the other sides perspective, always about getting Archie off. They pretty much threw Amatt under the bus as he was largely expendable.

Getting the original assault conviction for Amatt was a small cherry on top of a thin layer of icing which was the Clifton-Brown Assault. The Hunting Act conviction was the big moist cake underneath it all.

We still have the cake and that tastes pretty sweet.

Finally, the police asked if they wanted the carcass of the fox back  (bearing in mind it was utterly minging, semi decomposed and over 2 years old ) and apparently they do. I kid you not.

I wonder what they’re going to do with it?

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.

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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.

There would appear to be something not quite right in the world of hunting. OK, that’s pretty obvious as you have to be morally corrupt to even consider hunting as acceptable but here I’m talking about the major players in the make up of hunting organisations.

Lord Mancroft is the Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and the Council of Hunting Associations. He was until recently a board member of the so-called Countryside Alliance, having been a member at the CA’s creation in 1997 and deputy Chairman of the British Field Sports Society (forerunner of the CA) since 1992.  In his own words:

“I have been intimately involved in the political battle for hunting for more than 30 years”.

Obviously a charming chap.

The point of interest here is that he has been removed from the board of the CA and this news was released in a short article in the Nag & Mutt (Horse & Hound) last June. The term “removed” is an interesting one. Clearly his departure from the board wasn’t exactly amicable and there seems to be very little in terms of an explanation for his departure from the CA. The normally vocal CEO Dim Tim Bonner has been conspicuously quiet on the matter, making only a minimal statement on what they’re doing to increase the PR of hunting and who they currently have in place to do that, with Mancroft not even getting a mentioned.

Mancroft himself offers a bit more as to why he was booted out saying:

“I have been asking questions about the CA’s apparent unwillingness or failure to defend hunting politically or engage in any proactive PR”.

So I think it’s pretty clear that there’s been some in significant disagreements within the CA’s top brass and Mancroft, clearly not very happy about the current state of affairs had openly voiced his opinions which lead to the divorce. Obviously from my point of view this is all good stuff. You can’t beat a nice bit of in fighting among the ranks of your enemy and its certainly not the first time Bonner has come in for criticism, only now it seems that the criticism is coming from further up the food chain.

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Lord Mancroft

And that’s not all.

Below is a screen shot from the jobs section in H&H.

job advert

These are some of the top jobs in hunting.

The Hunting Office is described as:

“The administrative hub for the Council of Hunting Associations.  The Hunting Office exists to help and advise Masters and its member Hunts.  It represents and supports packs of hounds from fourteen hunting associations in England, Scotland and Wales, providing advice on all matters regarding hunting activities, hunt management and hound health & welfare”.

In case you don’t know the MFHA is:

“The Masters of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) is the Governing Body for registered packs of Foxhounds and represents 171 packs that hunt within the law in England and Wales and a further 8 in Scotland”.

The purpose of the AMHB is:

 “. . . to oversee the promotion and proper management of the Harrier and Beagle hunts”.

If all of these key personnel positions are vacant then it would seem that the vessel which oversees all things hunting could well be rudderless. There’s something distinctly whiffy going on in the halls of hunting and it doesn’t look good for them.

In the real world the compassionate side of the hunting argument have been hugely successful in utilising all the social media platforms available and getting the message out there. While sabs and monitors continue to upload damming videos and images of hunts breaking the law those involved in the criminality have been retreating further into their own fishbowl.

The successful prosecutions of the Thurlow & Fitzwilliam, the Meynell & South Staffs hunt awaiting trail, the conviction of the South Herefordshire hunt fox cub killers, the Kimblewick hunt staff awaiting trial, the Belvoir hunt paying out almost £50K in damages to LACS employees . . . all this is starting to add up and the powers that be in the hunting world are, to be quite frank, crapping themselves. Is it rats leaving a sinking ship or perhaps have we had a night of the long knives?

Hunting is also under pressure for other reasons, continued urbanisation and changes in land ownership mean there’s less areas to hunt. Some land owners no longer want the hunt on their land and the potential for conflict and negative press that comes with them. Shooting interests have increased and while I obviously have no love for this either the last thing shoots want is a bunch of rampant hounds and riders charging through their area and scattering the game birds all over the place before they can be shot (this happened last season while we were sabbing the Oakley, all very amusing for us). Another problem they have is that the old guard of experienced huntsmen are retiring and there simply isn’t the new blood coming through to take up these jobs. Let’s face it, apart from those actually involved in hunting everyone is going to hate you, the pay is probably pretty bad and there’s a fair chance you’ll end up in court.

Not exactly an appealing job description.

It turned out to be quite an eventful week, after writing my initial blog post there was movement on that particular case and the 2 terrier men from the Kimblewick Hunt were charge with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Once this was confirmed I pulled my post as there was no need to rock the apple cart with regards to Thames Valley Police any further.

What was slightly annoying was how the case was reported in the press. The BBC‘s short article was pretty typical with only the most basic of facts reported but it, like most of the others singularly failed to mention that the accused were taking part in an organised hunt and were in fact employees of the Kimblewick.

We can probably imagine the damage limitation exercise currently being undertaken by the that particular hunt as we speak and no doubt the 2 accused will be dropped faster than a hot potato. As usual the so-called Countryside Alliance’s head moron, Timbo Bonner has once again been deathly silent on the matter. One wonders if there’ll be more “bad apples” claims if they get convicted. The whole cider barrel is starting to look significantly acidic. All the fruit in the CA’s sphere would appear to be rotten, but we knew that anyway.

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Moving on from that I finally received the written ruling from the Fitzwilliam case. It was very interesting reading it’s contents as I had missed that day in court due to illness. This will of course provide the basis for any future cases against hunts that pretend to use the Falconry Exemption within the hunting act.

The ruling itself is 15 pages long so I’ll spare you all the details but the most salient points within the ruling were well worth the wait. It defines what is to be considered “flushing” and the differences between that and hunting and how they can, in certain circumstances overlap. It also defines what is “cover”. This was a much argued point in the court case and now both of these have been defined there can be no further disagreements in a court of law. Essentially cover can be pretty much any vegetation and flushing is not pursuing. If the hounds are chasing the animal they are hunting it.

There were also some other interesting points to note:

“Now, we heard some evidence about the history of the Fitzwilliam Hunt and the court understands that the huntsman in this case would want to use the existing pre 2004 infrastructure where possible. However, the Act was designed to change behaviours. Protecting and maintaining the infrastructure for posterity, no matter how laudable, cannot be a legitimate reason to use behaviours which do in fact break the law or do intermittently break the law.”

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George Adams – Guilty

Tradition isn’t a defence for illegal hunting.

Judge Cooper continues:

“We note that the dogs were not called off the chase of the fox at any relevant point, with none of the three controlling riders, including George Adams, even closely present, nor was there any communication between the three of them, nor were any of the three capable of intervening at the moment when the fox met its end . . .”

In normal hunting cases the main point to prove is intent, however in this case the intent would appear to be given and lack of hound control is an offence in itself.

“Now, as the death of the fox demonstrates, we find that as a fact the hounds were not under meaningful control. We note our observation that since 2004 they had not been trained in fact to desist the chase, nor trained to desist from touching the prey if they caught up with it. From the point at which the fox broke away from the copse, to the time the dogs killed the fox, Mr Adams exerted no effective control of the dogs involved in the chase, nor direct others to do so”.

John Mease’s claims that the sabs present on the day were the reason he failed to release the bird were rejected out of hand, leaving the judge to draw his conclusion.

“Now, from the moment the fox – the hounds left the copse in visual pursuit of the fox, they acted in accordance with their breed instinct, as we have been told. They were unchecked and that instinct was to hunt and ultimately kill the fox.

We acknowledge that there might conceivably have been an opportunity earlier to deploy the bird as the fox broke diagonally across the field, but it was the very presence of the dogs, uncontrolled and chasing the fox up the riverbank and across the field that would in practice have prevented John Mease deploying the bird of prey. To the extent that John Mease blames the presence of saboteurs for not doing so, we reject that evidence as a complete account of his failure to slip the bird and, in conclusion, the presence of a bird of prey, close by and ready to join the hunt if the fox did go into open ground, makes no difference to the essential nature of what occurred during those particular five minutes and, in particular, the moment when dogs ran across open ground behind George Adams in pursuit of a visible fox in the open, unchecked by him. So we conclude that this was not exempt hunting, it was hunting by dogs”.

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The presence of a BoP does not constitute exempt huning

The final comments will have a profound effect on this particular exemption and I’ll confirm my original assertion that this will indeed be the end of mounted hunts using the falconry exemption.

“Now, the pursuit of a fox by uncontrolled dogs over open ground is behaviour which in itself constitutes the offence. The presence of the bird provides no defence at all”.

Finally we all had a bloody good laugh at the pro-hunting and killing brigade over the weekend with the complete and utter failure of their Countryside Rally in London. Organisers were claiming they were going to get 100,000 people attending and had spent over £17K on organising the event.

That’s a lot of money to spend for the 50 people who actually turned up (and that’s an optimistic number).

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Look at the crowds, oh wait . . .

It was a hot day after all and FieldsportsChannel.tv tried to put a brave face on it and claimed 150 people attended. Even if that was the case it’s still a desperately poor turnout when they were expecting 100,000.

Always nice to end on a high point.