Posts Tagged ‘Fitzwilliam Hunt’

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.

I’ve been kinda lazy recently in the writing department but if you’re a regular reader you’d have guessed that already. I’ve been kinda busy at work and I’d also had a week away on holiday north of the border which was nice as for once the weather up there was a lot better than down south, plus I got climb a mountain which isn’t something you get to do very often.

While I was away the case of the South Herefordshire Hunt fox cub killers finally reached it’s conclusion. Here was a case that had been dragging on as long as my own one against Fitzwilliam but for very different reasons. The Hunt Investigation Team had secured some very damning evidence against the accused and it did finally get to court although it has now come to light that the reasons behind the delays were insidious to say the least.

There was a concerted effort by some individuals within West Mercia Police to make sure those responsible for the heinous crimes against those fox cubs would never see the inside of a court room. Follow this link for a personal account by Jane Barradale-Smith who is the wife of the officer who received the bodies of the dead foxes.

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The highly questionable warrant issued to search premises

The case was very widely reported in the national press and TV with the main focus not just on the convictions but the totally laughable sentences handed out with probably the best article in the Independent. It’s a sad indictment of our legal system that the people responsible avoided a custodial sentence and were in fact not even banned from keeping animals in the future. This is no deterrent at all and another reason in a long list that we need a complete overhaul of sentencing options for hunting and animal cruelty offences along with judges who are prepared to give the maximum sentences where appropriate.

The so-called Countryside Alliance had kept very tight lipped over the whole affair but once the guilty verdicts was announced they were forced into making a statement and it was predictable to say the least.

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This is of course a load of unmitigated clap trap. Dim Bonner knows full well this isn’t a case of “Bad Apples”, as far as he’s concerned (and no doubt many other hunts around the country) the stupidity he’s referring to is simply that they got caught. This kind of thing is nothing new. Hunts have always historically provided foxes to be hunted and have no doubt been involved in similar activities to the SHH since hunting with hounds began. Lets not forget the Belvoir Hunt had a fox kept in an outbuilding ready to be hunted, a member to the Fitzwilliam was convicted of keeping a fox in a barrel  and last NYD the Kimblewick were filmed dragging a fox from a false earth and throwing it in front of the hounds (which we’ve heard nothing from Thames Valley Police about since).

Speaking of bad apples, below is the statement from a the This is Hunting UK  facebook page.

Statement

Pfft, “untypical” my arse. It’s all very well and good claiming they have nothing to hide but kennel open days are nothing more than promotional stunts designed to encourage more people to come hunting and they certainly won’t get to see what really goes on behind the scenes. If they really want to be open about what they do just publish the meets along with trail maps so we can all go along and watch them follow these mythical trails. Maybe we can ride with a terrier man and ask him what the terriers are for if the hunt is genuinely following a trail and do they really get that much dust up their noses while mending fences that they need to keep their faces covered. And we haven’t even mentioned “Autumn Hunting” (cubbing) yet.

Nothing whatsoever to hide?

What an absolute load of bollox.

SHH images courtesy of HIT.

I’ve been off all week, stewing in my bed watching Netflix with the lurgy. I don’t get ill very often but when I do I get it properly. It was also getting somewhat frustrating waiting for the court decision over the Fitzwilliam’s appeal of their conviction we secured back in April of last year. As you probably know by now the court upheld the conviction after a 5 day re-trial at first Peterborough and then Cambridge Crown Court. I was present for some of those days and of course had to give evidence once again. I won’t go over all the details of the trial as it was much the same as the previous in terms of actual evidence and you can read all about that here: Original Case.

What I will do is give you some of my observations and thoughts from the case and the lengths the other side went to to discredit the prosecution witnesses and scupper the case.

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George Adams

For those that don’t know in Hunting Act cases that go to appeal there is no jury as there normally would be in a Crown Court. There will be a Crown Judge presiding but also 2 Magistrates. The Crown Judge is obviously the main player in this and it’s their job to advise the Magistrates on complex legal matters. Judge Cooper was presiding in this case and from the very start, and to coin an old fashioned phrase, I liked the cut of his jib. Here was a man who was clearly of very sharp mind and not one to be taken in by the attempted dirty tricks of the other side.

The defence team consisted of Stephen Welford (solicitor) and Peter Glenser QC. I’ve crossed intellectual swords with both of these before, I beat Welford in the original case and Glenser was the defence barrister for one of the Thurlow Hunt defendants in a case we also won only last March. (See here: Thurlow Hunt Conviction). Their record against me and my colleagues so far certainly wasn’t anything to shout about. Glenser it would seem is also Chairman of the BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation) which has always seemed like a contradiction in terms to me. It’s more about killing things than any real conservation work so here we have a man who is clearly very deeply entrenched in the wildlife abuse industry and obviously the go to man for legal matters within the CA.

On the very morning of the first day of the trial the defence submitted an application to have our expert witness, Professor Stephen Harris’s testimony omitted due to both bias and bad character, this dodgy tactic was intended to rule out his evidence without giving him the right of reply due to the lateness of the submission. Fortunately Judge Cooper wasn’t having any of it and referred to this tactic as “ambushing” the court. He noted that the defence had well over a year to submit any claims and doing so on the morning of the first day of the trial was simply not acceptable. The defence then applied for their own “expert” witness to be included, a certain Dr Hamilton Wallis.

Now Dr Wallis has a somewhat shady background to say the least. We did some digging and soon had someone who was prepared to jump on a train, travel a significant distance and stand up in court to tell everyone that he was in fact a professional liar. This so called expert’s speciality was in computer forensics although had once run a drag hunt somewhere in Wales. His relevance to the case at hand was, at best, questionable. For a little bit more about Wallis read this blog. Fields Data Recovery Scam.

I was once again on the stand for nearly 2 hours. I like to think I held my own and there was nothing in their cross examination which surprised me. I had crossed words with Glenser on a couple of occasion, my favourite of these was over the cause of death of the fox. He claimed the fox wasn’t “disemboweled” as I had claimed in my statement.

I asked him “If it wasn’t killed in this manner why were it’s intestines hanging out?” (This is clearly visible in the video).

Glenser replied, “We ask the questions Mr xxxxxx, not you”.

I think I won that one.

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Adams looks on at the kill – This was no accident

The other witness called was a sab I’ve know for some time now from South Cambs Hunt Sabs. She performed admirably once again and was certainly not overawed by the situation and definitely not someone the defence were able to bend to their will.

I should also comment on the prosecuting barrister, David Matthew QC. He was a complete gentleman, utterly charming but a shark when cross examining the defence witnesses and very robust in the legal jousting he undertook against Glenser and their dirty tactics. A razor sharp legal mind certainly not to be taken lightly who always seemed to be in control from day 1.

The appeal itself, something which sometimes gets lost, was in fact from the now retired Fitzwilliam huntsman, George Adams. When looking at the bigger picture you have to concede that George was little more than a pawn in all of this. He’ll get no sympathy from me as he chose his own fate and employment but on the stand he once again came across as what he is, a bumbling old fool. One has to wonder who really drove the appeal, the so-called Countryside Alliance or the Fitzwilliam? Adams had very little to gain apart from clearing his name but in hunting circles that’s probably irrelevant. The Fitzwilliam were clearly not happy at being labelled a criminal hunt and the fact they attempted to bring an injunction against me and others suggest they were probably the driving force in this with full CA backing. The usual CA mob of Adrian (Barry Chuckle) Simpson and Polly (Pinocchio) Portwin we also there for several days of the trial.

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John Mease

I’ve always had a very personal hatred for the use of raptors during a fox hunt. I’ve written about this at length before (see here), plus I have fairly extensive knowledge of raptors having spent many years observing and photographing them in the wild and learning about them where I can. For this reason the BoP handler John Mease has a very personal hatred of me. I think it’s probably because he sees me as a threat to his livelihood, and he’s probably right.

John was acquitted in the original case on the basis that he wasn’t in control of the hounds. It’s a shame the court couldn’t convict him due to joint venture but he was also acquitted of  cruelty after submitting video evidence of his eagle catching a fox. I saw this video for the first time during the appeal. What I saw will haunt me for the rest of my days. How he was acquitted I will never know. The CA employed some dodgy vet to state his actions were humane. What I saw was anything but.

It showed his eagle catching a fox at the base of a hedge. By the time he arrived the fox and the eagle had been fighting on the ground for some time. The eagle had stripped the flesh from part of the foxes jaw and you could see bone. The fox, still fully conscious was fighting back as best it could. Mease arrives, draws what appears to be a glorified screwdriver, nothing more than a sharpened spike and has several attempts to stab the fox through the eye socket while holding off both the fox and the eagle which is trying to defend its catch.

It was utterly grotesque and a horrific end for a beautiful animal.

Mease showed 3 videos like this.

Three.

Considering the hunt go out 2, sometimes 3 times a week during the season he could only muster 3 videos since 2005 where his eagle had been released and caught a fox even though he wears a head camera all the time. And oddly enough there was no sign of any riders and horses, hunt staff or hounds in any of the videos. In fact there was no sign of any hunt at all. This was certainly not proof the hunt had “flushed” any of those foxes.

Mease himself was a very angry man on the stand. Every question he was asked turned into a rant about sabs. We lost count the number of times he mentioned balaclavas and dressed in black. He even claimed we sprayed acid in animals faces! On several occasions the judge had to step in and tell him to answer the question he was asked and not deviate. Our QC took him apart and called him out on his constant lies.

When his cross examination was over we heard a whispered comment from the hunt support at the back of the public gallery, “Thank God that’s over”. Mease had just incriminated the hunt further. I will always maintain that if you enjoy this kind of activity there has to be something very deeply wrong with you psychologically. Violence to animals very easily translates to violence to people. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if I was to learn in the future that Mease had made that short leap.

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The fox which paid the ultimate price on NYD 2016

Moving on now to comment about Professor Harris. He’s slightly mad as you would expect any professor to be but in a good way. He dealt with the excessive and dubious claims against him in his own nonchalant style and proved his knowledge of foxes and hunting in no uncertain terms. If it was a contest merely on expert witnesses we’d have won hands down.

And so that was it.

We had to wait some time for the verdict but it was worth it in the end. I was unable to make the court on decision day which was a shame but the other witness was there and said it was “Bloody great”. Judge Cooper, in summing up had some complimentary comments about me as a witness which is always nice and has written a very detailed ruling, clearly upholding the original conviction but more importantly stating, “Something significant” must change in the planning and training of the hounds and the characteristics of hunts in the future if they don’t want to be charged with illegal hunting.

What next?

We now have case law and that’s vital. Any hunt which uses the Falconry exemption within the Hunting Act will now know it won’t protect them from prosecution. The term “flushing from cover”, was a major talking point during the whole trial is likely to be defined in the ruling. This is effectively the end of the falconry exemption loophole used by fox hunters. How the Fitzwilliam and other hunts respond to this setback remains to be seen. They took a huge gamble with this appeal and they lost but they’ve also screwed up every other hunt which used this loophole and that’s not going to make them any friends. There can be no other appeals except on a point of law. No doubt the other side will be picking through the ruling and looking for a way out but my involvement, after almost 3 and a half years is now, finally over.

John Mease was probably right to hate me. He’s probably going to lose his job, and with his job, his house, as he lives at the kennels and is a fully paid employee of the hunt.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke.

Finally like to thank all those involved in bringing the case to this successful conclusion – Cambs Police for a proper and robust investigation, David Matthew QC, the other witness and everyone who offered their support and advice along the way.

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.