Posts Tagged ‘George Adams’

I’ve written before about what kind of evidence you need in order to get a chance of a prosecution under the current Hunting Act legislation, and we all know the level of burden of proof is set way to high but I’m not going to cover old ground again, instead I’m going to focus on the actual use of the recording equipment itself and how to maximise it’s effectiveness.

At any hunt meet there will always be a proliferation of body cams, phones and hand held cameras, both still and video, and used by both sides, but what is the most suitable for the sab or monitor in their quest for justice?

Choice of Kit?

Body Cams: We use these for the purpose of self defence and are of a GoPro type mounted on chest harnesses. As a recording device they are generally only really any good for close in subject matter, great if you’re getting some grief from your local hunt goons but no good if you’re filming the hunt itself.

Mobile Phones: Most mobile devices now have some pretty amazing cameras but once again these aren’t really suitable for catching fast moving action which could be some distance away. They are difficult to hold and easily stolen or obstructed, not something which is ideal in the field. Most people rely on their phones for everyday life so they really need to be protected at all costs.

DSLR: The DSLR will undoubtedly produce the best quality footage and stills with the highest frame rates and quality settings along with shooting in RAW for stills. You have the option of a vast selection of lenses for both near and far work however they are generally quite expensive (a decent 500mm lens is likely to cost in excess of £1000 minimum) and very bulky to carry around. The risk of damage will usually mean this is not an option for most people monitoring or sabbing hunts.

Handycams: These are the most likely option and can be purchased relatively cheaply when compared to the performance available. They fit the hand nicely, are compact and offer zoom capability which is unparalleled, this is a huge positive as hunts can be filmed from some distance without them knowing. For around £250 you can buy some excellent equipment. Personally I’d go for the Panasonic HC-W580. It claims a 90x zoom but the reality is 50x optical and the rest digital. I’d always ignore any digital zoom figures, all you’re really doing there is increasing the size of the image and a drop in quality will result but, 50x zoom is plenty in most situations.

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A good bit of kit for the price.

What & When to film?

Much of this can only come through experience and understanding of what’s happening during a hunt. As you start out learn to focus on the huntsman and hounds and try and consider where a fox is likely to break. Keep as much of the action in shot as you can, don’t focus in too early and if the hounds go into cry get the camera up and running as soon as possible, it’s highly likely that it might be a false alarm or you don’t get anything in shot however missing something important because the camera wasn’t rolling is a schoolboy error. Spend lots of time filming and you’ll soon begin to understand what and indeed when to film.

Positioning.

Where you locate yourself will once again come with experience. Most sabs with a few seasons under their belts will know this, it’s all part of sabbing. We’ll always be looking to position ourselves in the ideal location to get between the hunted animal and the path of the hounds. If you’re in a group make sure everyone knows their job, the sprayers, the raters and horn blowers. As the camera person you should be positioned slightly further back so you can catch all the action as it happens but the starting off position will be very similar to the rest of your team.

Using the Equipment.

It’s happened to me several times before, I’ve given someone a camera prior to a hunt and told them to get some footage when they can. What I got back was a jumbled up mess of shots which included a lot of sky and ground, the insides of their pockets, some banter in the back of the sab van and a whole bunch of footage where the camera is being shaken all over the place as it’s filming as they are running along.

Most handycams are very easy to use with a small flip out screen, a zoom trigger with a start and stop (filming) button. Make sure you know where they all are and that you remember to start and stop filming properly. Some cameras will continue to film even if you flip the screen to closed. This is a route to filling up memory cards and flattening batteries very quickly and there’s nothing more annoying that missing that shot for these reasons. You can of course carry spare memory cards which is advisable along with batteries but in the course of a day I’ve yet to fill one up or drain a battery.

There are a few simple steps to getting good footage.

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A couple of frames from the footage which convicted the Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams

 

1 – Stand still. Shaky footage can be useless. Modern cams have some great stabilisation but they can do only so much. Running around while trying to film effectively is nigh on impossible and footage gained likely to make the viewer sick!

2 – Frame the subject matter first. Do this with a wide shot. Resist the temptation to zoom right in straight away. If you are any distance away you’ll lose the subject matter and spend ages zooming in and out trying to reacquire it. Only a very tiny movement of your hand end will be a huge movement of image.

3 – Predict the direction of travel. If you see a fox running from the hunt get it in a wide shot and slowly zoom in. If it’s going in and out of obstructions or cover try and predict where you think it will break cover and give you a clear shot. This will give you the opportunity to focus on a specific area and when the subject runs through the shot you can pick it up and follow it more easily. This is exactly the process I used in the video which convicted the Fitzwilliam Huntsman George Adams. I knew where the fox would run, focused on a piece of ground directly ahead of it then tracked it as it came through shot (see images above).

4 – Keep a steady hand. Use both hands if you have to. Keep the camera close to your body and use your bent elbows to brace against your chest while using your other hand to steady the camera. Shooting over long distances can be very difficult, use the environment to help if you can, lean on a wall or gate post, they can all improve matters. Keep everything as smooth as you can.

5 – Keep calm. It’s very easy to get over excited when things start to happen in the field. Keep a cool head and focus on what you need to achieve. If you’re panicking or rushing about you’ll miss that important shot and the footage will be all over the place. Let those around you do their jobs and you concentrate on the filming.

The film we submitted which is the basis for the Thurlow case is a prime example of this. There were 2 of us with cameras at the location and although I started to film I knew there was someone else with a better, wider view of what was taking place. That left me to move forward and concentrate on other matters. Obviously I can say too much but needless to say the footage achieved on that day was enough to put the hunt before the courts and hopefully enough to secure a conviction.

6 – Stay Secure. This is really important. If you’ve got some crucial footage the other side will be desperate to get this from you. As soon as you can move away from the area and swap out the memory cards. Even if they manage to get the camera from you later in the day the footage you gained earlier will be safe and secure.

On a final note you do not have to submit your footage to the police on the day. If they ask for it DO NOT GIVE IT TO THEM. You are under no legal obligation to do so and this type of evidence has a habit of going missing. Take the details of the officers on the scene and then go home and make a copy which you can keep secure. You can then either send the police a copy via web download (although they sometimes have trouble with this) or literally put a disk or memory stick in their hands and get proof they have it.

So hopefully you’ll have enough of the basics to go out there and get some good footage. Hunts hate cameras, lets make sure they stay in the spotlight.

 

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.

 

As you’ve probably guessed by now I’ve been away for a couple of weeks. I’ll get to that in a moment as it applies to what I’m going to quickly report on next.

So, the other morning I got a call from Suffolk Police. They explained that I had been positively identified and named at an incident which I can only assume involved a hunt in the Suffolk area and that I had been acting in an abusive manner and calling people paedophiles (this is somewhat ironic considering hunt types like to throw this kind of abuse at sabs all the time). The officer who spoke to me believed this information to be questionable as he’d spoken to me many times in the past and didn’t consider this something I would be guilty of, hence the direct phone call.

Now as far as alibi’s go I had a pretty good one. At the time of the call I was located in a small hamlet just to the north of Courtenay on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. That’s a little under 7,600 km from darkest Suffolk.

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Needless to sat the officer was satisfied with my response and we had a laugh at the ridiculousness of it all however it highlights that there is perhaps a more insidious purpose to the claims made against me. It’s fairly clear to me the purpose of this claim was the first attempt to discredit me as a witness prior to the prosecution trail of Chris Amatt and Archie Clifton-Brown, the huntsman and whipper inn respectively of the Thurlow Hunt based in Suffolk. Except of course they have now completely shot themselves in the foot as any further claims are likely to be treated with the contempt they deserve by the police. You would think that if you are going to try and stitch someone up you would at least make sure they were on the same continent first.

No doubt this will be the first shot in a dirty tricks campaign, something the Countryside Alliance are well known for and with a case they may not be confident in winning they will resort of less scrupulous tactics in order to get the result they desire.

In other news the never ending saga of the Fitzwilliam case rumbles on. The appeal by George Adams against his conviction earlier this year has been delayed again however this is just fine by me. It’s looking highly likely that by the time it goes to court the upcoming fox hunting season will be more or less over so it means we get to call them convicted criminals for a whole season.

Finally this time of year has to be the busiest in the wildlife protection calendar. Most hunts are now cubbing and the cruel and pointless badger cull has been extended even further, 150,000 badgers could be killed, leaving parts of the country devoid of this iconic species where they have existed for centuries just because the NFU want it that way. If you’ve even considered getting involved now would be the time, contact your local sab group for more information.

Donate here.

Well after a brief break from blogging and another trip north of the border in what had to be the coldest week of the summer (it barely got above 13-14°C for the whole week) I’m back to catch up with whats been going on.

One story which obviously came to my attention was the death of 10 hounds and the injury to a cyclist after the collision with a car. The hounds in question belonged to the Cottesmore Hunt, you may remember them from a season ago when their terrier men assaulted sabs and one of their supporters brandished a heavy chain, swinging it wildly like a maniac which could have caused serious injury had it connected with its intended target  (incidentally no charges were forthcoming from Leicestershire Police, surprise surprise).

Obviously no-one from either side of the hunting debate would wish a tragic event like this but one has to question the reality of the situation and the reaction from supporters of hunting. While I don’t know the full details the hunt supporters were very quick to apportion blame, both on the driver of the vehicle and, you guessed it – sabs.

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Where the incident happened

It’s very easy to jump to conclusion without knowing the full facts however having observed hounds being exercised and transferred along country roads you have to question the sense and logic behind how this takes place. Having a kennel man on a bicycle with a whip on what is likely to be a bendy country road with a full pack of hounds (probably at least 15 couple) is obviously a recipe for disaster. Dogs do not have any idea of road safety and that many hounds could easily fill a narrow country lane and with these on a blind bend then the outcome is hardly surprising. This isn’t the first time hounds have been killed while being exercised (see here ) and I have no doubt it won’t be the last. Was the driver speeding as the hunt supporters claim or were they merely an innocent party going about their business who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time?

What was even more laughable were the claims that this was actually the work of sabs. Just think about that for a moment. A sab intentionally drove their vehicle at speed into a pack of hounds.

To say it’s utterly ridiculous is an understatement.

First off most sabs are vegans. Harming any animal goes against the very ethos of veganism and the ideal by which we live. We believe hounds are as big a victim of hunting as the animals they are trained and forced to hunt. Even ignoring this the legal ramifications of potentially losing ones license make the stupidity of those actions only bettered by the morons who suggested it in the first place. Here are a few of those comments posted on a pro hunting Facebook group.

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Aren’t they all just wonderful? One has to question where and how this rumour started? The same old tired and jaded stereotypical opinions such as claims of being hypocrits and their usual favourite (terrorists) are being wheeled out once more without any shred of evidence to support the claims but then this is of course nothing new and hardly unexpected.

As it turns out this proved to be somewhat of an embarrassment for that particular group and it had to delete all the comments blaming sabs and publish a post contradicting all those slathering hunt supporters looking to blame.

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Well at least that’s cleared up then but was the driver really out of control? It should also be noted that the driver of the vehicle hasn’t been charged with any traffic offences so the police clearly believe none had taken place which would suggest the claims by the hunt that they were out of control are also innacurate. Regardless of that what are the necessary requirement for exercising a large number of hound on a public road? I’m fairly sure Joe public would’t be allowed to walk a large number of dogs who weren’t controlled by a lead on a public highway. As hunting hounds come under the classification of working dogs the same laws don’t apply – perhaps they should.

Finally the longest hunting case in history (I made that up but it certainly feels like it) will be resolved on the 14th January 2019, a full 3 years after the offence took place. This will be the appeal of convicted Fitzwilliam huntsman George Adams. Let’s hope we can get this written into case law at the crown court and finally the ridiculous Bird of Prey Exemption can be written into history.