Posts Tagged ‘Fox killed’

Well I’ve had chance to draw breath and finally take in the events of the last few days. If you’ve been following the Fitzwilliam case over the last 2 years you’ll no doubt already know the result from the court hearing last Wednesday (4th April) as its been in pretty much all the national news as well as some local but in case you don’t they are as follows:

John Mease – Causing Unnecessary Suffering to an Animal – Not Guilty.

John Mease – Contravention of the Hunting Act (Section 3) – Not Guilty.

George Adams – Contravention of the Hunting Act (Section 3) – Guilty.

While we are obviously disappointed that Mease was cleared of causing unnecessary suffering (sticking a knife into the eye of an animal to kill it doesn’t sound particularly humane to me) we weren’t part of that case and I always suspected he would be cleared of the Hunting Act charge although hunting is considered a “joint venture” exercise so it could have been possible to secure a conviction.

The crux of the matter is the use of a bird of prey to circumnavigate the law in relation to fox hunting and this is what we were very keen to prove as illegal. An online discussion with colleagues produced the following response and it seems like a pretty good explanation to me having been present for the whole case:

The legal test that was being performed in this case was; when a hunt uses a bird of prey, who is actually in charge of the hunt? The bird of prey exemption is designed to avoid criminalising the pre-existing falconry community, any hunting (and the dogs used in that hunting) in falconry are under the control of the falconer.

In the case of the Fitzwilliam kill of 1.1.2016, a fox is killed by a pack of hounds (although this point is largely ignored by most of the press). This act itself indicates that the Hunting Act has been breached. The question is, who is accountable?

If, as the Fitzwilliam claimed, they were legally using their dogs to flush to a bird of prey, then this would suggest that the individual responsible for the hunting of that fox is actually the falconer. The falconer is responsible for his own dogs (Mease later admitted that the best dogs to use for this would be maybe two pointers, not 15 1/2 couple foxhounds).

If the falconer is responsible for the dogs in this instance, then the hunting and killing of the fox is the result of the actions of that falconer, and he would be guilty of a Hunting Act 2004 Section 3(2) offence.

It was established in court on 4th April 2018, that while the falconer was present, the control of the hounds in fact fell to the huntsman (George Adams). This was demonstrated by video of George controlling the hounds with his horn, hunting them on etc. Also, Mease admitted that the hounds were not under his control, but the huntsman’s.

Once this point of evidence was established, the falconer is placed immediately out of scope of the Hunting Act offence. Owing to the presence of people in the near vicinity (sabs in this case, but Mease stated this could equally be bystanders, supporters, dog walkers etc) then the falconer would not release his bird of prey. This therefore means that the only factors in play are now the fox and the hounds, and a Hunting Act offence is being committed by whatever individual is controlling the hounds.

Mease being acquitted of the HA2004 offence, therefore, was *integral* and necessary to successfully convicting George Adams of a Hunting Act Section 3(2) offence. Had Mease not been on trial, then the Huntsman would have been free to claim in court that the hounds are part of the falconers armoury, and this would not have been examined by the prosecution.

Media reports focus on “man cleared of hunting foxes because he uses a Golden Eagle”, when in fact this is not the case. It should read, “Man cleared of hunting act offences, because he was nothing to do with the pack of foxhounds which killed a fox as they were trained and commanded to do”. 

huntsman & supporter at kill

Guilty – George Adams with the kill.

So ultimately and regardless of how the press reported on the incident this is in fact a big win for us. The next step is down the opposition, will they appeal as they claim? It’s a high risk strategy for them. While Adams may clear his name if they win,  losing in the crown court means the decision will become case law while at the present all hunting act cases with relevance to the Falconry Exemption will be treated on a case by case basis. If I were a hunter I’d certainly be considering the options and the wider implications for other hunts that pretend to use this exemption. Recent cases would appear to favour the hunters if they are using the “trail hunting” excuse, its certainly cheaper for them to pretend to lay a trail with a smelly rag rather than employing a falconer in a position which may no longer serve the purpose.

Personally I’m pleased with the outcome and happy with the investigation by Cambridgeshire Police and response by the CPS. A District Judge heard the case rather than a magistrate, a knowledgeable prosecution barrister did a fine job on the day and Professor Harris was an excellent no nonsense expert witness. It’s tough being cross examined, I was on the stand for an hour and half and the defending CA barrister Stephen Welford did his best to catch me out but ultimately failed as when you have compelling video evidence and the truth on your side there will ultimately be only one outcome.

The Fitzwilliam now have a conviction under their belt to go along with their invasion of Upwood village last season and their supporters unprovoked attack on a sab vehicle. It’s not been a good year for them, but then that’s what you come to expect from these people.

Who are the real guardians of the countryside?

I’ve heard some far fetched excuses in my time but this one has to take the biscuit. It came from Mark Bycroft, huntsman for the Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent Hill hunt. Mark has convictions for assaulting anyone who gets in the way of his blood lust and is a serial fox killer, not exactly the sort of person you’d describe as a reliable witness. His outrageous claims were in response to the horrific video published by North Downs and Guildford Sabs of a fox the hunt had killed south of Chiddingstone last Saturday (3/12). Sabs were unfortunately only moments too late to save the animal but according to Bycroft it was all their fault.

He said; “I understand they found a dead fox in the wood but I wasn’t there at the time so I don’t know what has happened. They use hunting horns and play recordings and try to disrupt the hounds. If an incident has happened they are to blame.”

So lets look at the facts:

A hunt is in the area, the only hunt and Bycroft is the huntsman.

Hounds have killed a fox as they are trained to do.

The hounds belong to the hunt which is in the area.

Sabs are on the scene moments later and witness the kill and record footage.

Hunt staff/terrier men are aware the hounds are hunting a wild mammal.

oldsurreyburstowandwestkentfoxkill1

If Bycroft wasn’t there what the hell was he doing? It’s his job to be in control of the hounds. Blaming sabs for the incident is of course complete and utter nonsense. Their only desire is to save the hunted animal and they did their very best however they’re hardly likely to act in a way which would scupper their primary aims. Now this means that Bycroft is either completely incompetent at his job (which is possible) or he’s purposefully casting the hounds into areas looking for foxes and leaving them to get on with it on purpose so he has the excuse of not knowing anything about what is transpiring.

Except of course he knew all along the hounds were on a fox. Terrier men were observed hollering to indicate they’d seen a fox, the hounds were in full cry (making a loud baying noise) and hunt staff were nearby with full knowledge and made no attempt to call off the hounds.

Rightly this has made the national media and the evidence has been passed on to the police however despite the obvious illegality I doubt there will be any convictions resulting. Lee Moon, spokesperson for the HSA summed up;

“Mark Bycroft has previous convictions for assaulting hunt saboteurs. His hunt have also been filmed illegally chasing and killing foxes but have never been prosecuted for this due to the inadequacies of the police and the Hunting Act. We hope this time it will be different but won’t hold our breath. Whether they get prosecuted or not this video footage speaks for itself. The Old Surrey, Burstow and West Kent are a bunch of rural law breakers who think they are above the laws of the land. Well done to the sabs present who, although they weren’t able to save this particular fox have again highlighted the reality of hunting since the ban.”

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This wasn’t the only incident last weekend.

You may remember I reported on several incidents previously regarding the Belvoir Hunt (see here, here and here) and it seems they still regard themselves as untouchable. Three foxes were killed by the hunt in the same day from their meet at The Wolds Farm near Holwell. Also present on the day was the PPC for Leicestershire Lord Willy Bach along with officers from the Leicestershire force. Sabs from Northants Hunt Sabs witnessed a fox being chased and brutally killed in a farmyard near Scalford Hall. Huntsman John Holliday was present and made no attempt to stop or call off the hounds but dismounted his horse and assaulted a female sab as they tried to save the animal. It unfortunately died in the arms of the sabs at the scene.

On reporting this incident to the police they confirmed the Belvoir had already killed 2 further foxes, this time in the grounds of a nearby nursing home which was witnessed by staff and patients alike and reported by a horrified member of the public. The police also had the bodies of the murdered foxes as evidence. Lee Moon from the HSA again;

“2016 has shown the world exactly what the Belvoir hunt are like. They were implicated in keeping captive foxes, then viciously assaulting those who had exposed them. Now as the year draws to a close they brazenly hunt and kill three foxes in the presence of Leicestershire Police. Members of Leicestershire Police, including former wildlife crime officer Sharon Roscoe, are known to ride with the Belvoir and we hope this doesn’t influence any investigation. It is perhaps fortunate that the Leicestershire PCC was also present on the day to insist that this latest law breaking by the Belvoir is not brushed under the carpet.”

These incidents just show the utter contempt hunts have for the law and their arrogance by still claiming what they are doing is legal. No-one with any sense believes their lies any more and the blatant manner in which they pursue their grisly agenda time and again is a true reflection of their desire to kill and remain immune from justice. There has been a review in Scotland recently on their hunting laws and I remain hopeful that progress will be made there. The same process should be followed in England and Wales however the big difference here is we have a pro-hunt Government and an Environment Secretary who wants to repeal the act. Until these hurdles are removed it will be left to those in the field putting themselves on the line to stand up for our wildlife – The Hunt Saboteurs. Find your local group and bung them a few bob.