Posts Tagged ‘Hunt prosecution’

Part of our success in securing a prosecution of the Thurlow Hunt pair was in fact the judges ruling that despite their claims of trail laying the reason for their presence in Trundley Wood was in fact the likelihood that they would find a fox there. In this blog post I’m going to elaborate on why this was not just likely to happen but in fact certain to happen.

Much of the work for this post had been done for me by a colleague and fellow witness in the case. It was her video footage along with my own which formed the backbone of the case. The information which I’m now going to publish was submitted as evidence however due to the lack of proof linking it to the huntsman, Chris Amatt, it was never discussed in the court proceedings. However now that it’s all over we can release this and highlight what continues to take place all over the country and not just in Thurlow Country.

“In countries where earths are scarce it is sometimes found necessary to make artificial earths, to provide somewhere for local foxes to have their cubs : in other words, for breeding purposes. Another advantage of artificial earths is that in grass countries where the coverts tend to be small and scattered it is useful to have snug earths judiciously placed at regular intervals, thus persuading foxes to take a good line. An additional advantage is that if an artificial earth is left open, it will only take a few minutes to bolt a fox. Also if it is a blank day, one knows where to go with some certainty of finding a fox . . . In this book I only wish to touch on the subject, and to tell you what my grandfather had to say. He felt that artificial earths should be primarily intended as breeding establishments, and so among the chief points to be borne in mind should be the aspect, position, soil, drainage and materials used for their construction”. – Exert from Fox Hunting, The Duke of Beaufort, published by David & Charles, 1980

For those that don’t know artificial earths are structures built and maintained by hunts to provide shelter and breeding places for foxes. Their sole purpose is to ensure a good supply of foxes ready for the hunting season. They are most often constructed of pipes buried underground, leading to a central bedding chamber. The chambers can be elaborately built with brick or drystone walls.

There are 2 artificial earths in Trundley Wood.

artificial earths

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The picture above shows the entrance to artificial earth 1. This is a pretty standard arrangement and there is another entrance of the other side of the mound in the picture. Between these 2 entrances is the central bedding chamber. You can just see the edge of this in the picture below.

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This artificial earth would appear to be perfectly serviceable. The picture below shows the pipe to be dry and clear of any obstructions.

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Below is the entrance to artificial earth 2.

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Once again the entrance is clear of obstructions and would appear to be serviceable for use.

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Interestingly the League Against Cruel Sports published the location of this earth in an investigation they carried out in 2011. You can clearly see the earth here and the area it covers. The photograph was clearly taken only a short time after it’s construction and a clear indication the Thurlow Hunt were still undertaking activities to encourage foxes several years after the ban had been in place.

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They noted in their report: “The earth is in a wood owned by the Thurlow Estate, one of whose directors is a joint Master of the Thurlow Foxhounds. Trundley Wood is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature because of its ancient, semi-natural woodland.”

Let’s face it, most, if not all hunt staff are likely to know where to find foxes, especially if those locations are static and built by the estate themselves. All they have to do is rock up at any of these locations during a hunt and theirs a pretty good chance the hounds will pick up on a fox to hunt. If you’re the Kimblewick you’ll have the terrier men make sure there’s a fox a home the night before and hold it there over night to be released in front of the hounds the next day.

These aren’t isolated incidents. There are artificial earths all over our countryside and they are still very much in use by both foxes and the hunts who maintain them. In the Thurlow case it was highly likely the hounds picked up on the scent of the poor animal and it was attempting to seek refuge in one of these earths when it was caught and killed. No doubt had it reached one of the earths and we had not been on the scene, the terrier men for the hunt would have been called in the flush the animal so it could be hunted again.

Make no mistake, the so called Countryside Alliance can continue to claim that hunts are obeying the law but the simple fact of the matter is we all know different and the very presence of artificial earths on hunt owned lands only strengthens this argument. The Thurlow Hunt are prodigious artificial earth builders. In their relatively small hunt country there are 31 known artificial earths. They must have a lot of foxes to hunt. While the evidence submitted here was’t actually used in the case itself it is a clear indication that the hunt knew very well they would find a fox in Trundley Wood, in fact they were relying on it.

 

There’s always a recurring theme to many of the questions we get asked both in person and on social media with regards to hunting with hounds. When people finally realise that hunting still goes on largely as it did before the ban they then ask why the police don’t arrest those who are responsible. I’m going to cover what I believe are the 6 main reasons for their lack of action on this issue and hopefully this will also go some way in helping to understand the actions we, as activists take in response to that.

1 – Funding.

Police forces are facing huge challenges in funding their activities and some are desperately trying to juggle their needs and that of public opinion. Our local force is probably the most underfunded in the country and I believe also rated one of the worse in performance. The problem they have is that’s it’s a largely rural county with a couple of large urban conurbations which are, as one officers said off record, “terrorist central”. Clearly the policing of these areas will always take precedence along with the bulk of the funding and this can be construed as neglecting the wider issues in the countryside by the general public. Locally up to a couple of years ago we didn’t even have a dedicated team for rural policing but now this has been resolved and I guess it at least says something that we have a dedicated officer who acts as liaison for our group and a conduit for the transfer of information.

While not all counties will be the same I have no doubt that the majority of funding for police operations will go elsewhere and the whole hunting issue is well down the list of importance.

2 – How the police work.

One of the main points to understand is how the police work and this will explain their actions, or of course the lack of.

Think of the police force as a large company. The product they sell is convictions. The more convictions they achieve the better it will look on their books and the more funding they will receive from Government. Unsolved crimes will go against them. Ultimately the police want to spend the money allocated to them in the most cost effective way possible and achieve the most convictions. If they perceive an illegal activity not worthy of spending time and money on with an investigation due to the poor conviction rate then they simply won’t bother. You’ll often hear the police and CPS in particular say; “it’s not in the public interest”.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they think the public aren’t interested in them prosecuting but the cost of that investigation will outweigh the chance of a successful outcome. This will affect many minor crimes and not just those in relation to the Hunting Act.

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Waste of police resources?

3 – Resource Allocation.

This also relates to point 1 however it’s worth noting as a separate point. We’ve spoken to officers attending hunts who’ve said; “We can’t stay here long there’s a football match we have to police”. Sporting events like football matches obviously take a lot of policing and clubs pay for some of this (inside the stadiums) so it makes sense to take resources from one area to fill another with a greater need and also one which is likely to put something at least back into the financial pot. Although I use the football match analogy there are likely to be many other instances where priority over hunting will take place. In the grand scheme of things hunting is well down the pecking order in the level of priority.

4 – The Legislation.

I think it’s fairly well accepted by everyone on both sides that the Hunting Act isn’t fit for purpose. It has many glaring loop holes, some so big you could drive a horse box through them. Obviously this is no cause for any repeal like the so-called Countryside Alliance and their chief fibber dim Tim Bonner continually bang on about as some very straight forward changes could make the act a very successful and workable piece of legislation. I’ll cover this in more detail in another blog post to come.

Because the Hunting Act is convoluted and written with the law breakers in mind it becomes very difficult for the police to take it seriously and therefore not waste their time and effort in trying to police it. Once again this relates to all the other points of funding, allocating resources and how the police work. Only last Saturday while on operations against the Puckeridge Hunt in Hertfordshire (Tim Bonner’s home hunt) I spoke to the Sergeant in charge of policing on that day and his words were quite revealing.

“We know what the hunt get up to, they don’t fool us any more than they do you but there’s virtually no chance of prosecuting them. We even have to use much older legislation (the Game Act 1831) against the hare coursers we have that come to the county as it’s a better way of prosecuting them than using the Hunting Act”.

This statement speaks volumes.

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A hunter gets narky at plod for not arresting those nasty antis.

5 – Lack of knowledge within the police force, particularly officers attending hunts.

There simply isn’t enough officers which understand the act and are able to make rational decisions from what they witness when attending hunts. Decent wildlife crime officers are in very short supply. We’ve actually worked with some pretty decent officers, some are dedicated and really want to prosecute those who abuse our wildlife but on the whole officers attending hunts have virtually no idea of what they are doing. This is why when they attend they will say they are only there to maintain public order, its what they know and how to deal with.

A couple of weeks ago I was once again speaking to an officer attending a hunt. I showed him evidence of several foxes being flushed by the hunt on my video camera. He made a call to someone obviously more senior for some advice and the response was that as no foxes had been killed then no crime had taken place! This is clearly nonsense and I explained to the officer present that all you need to do is prove the intent to hunt a live mammal, no kill has to take place. The glaringly obvious evidence to back up the intent of the hunt was the presence of masked terrier men (those fence menders the CA like to talk about) with spades and terriers in boxes. There is of course no legitimate reason for these to be on a genuine trail hunt. But then again there’s no such thing as a legitimate trail hunt.

Too many officers will arrive at a hunt and make a snap decision based on their perception (and prejudice) of the people who are there. Who will they believe, a bunch of posh people dressed smartly on horseback or a bunch of sabs who are probably covered in mud and sweating from running around the countryside all day?

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Only interested in protecting the Atherstone Hunt

6 – Corruption.

Good old corruption. The old boys (or girls) club looking after their own. Make no mistake there are a large number of officers and judiciary who hunt. We expose these when we can to make it as difficult for them to influence things as possible (stay tuned for later blog posts as I’ve got an absolute peach of one coming up soon) but irrespective of their claims of impartiality corruption does take place.

The bias shown by some forces and officers can only lead us to draw the simple conclusion that officers on the coal face are either bias themselves or have been instructed to act in a certain manner when dealing with hunts and those who stand against them. I’ve seen officers look the other way while a fox has been chased between police cars with the hounds in pursuit. We’ve seen helicopters deployed to monitor sabs that would have cost the tax payer thousands of pounds. West Mids Hunt Sabs gained audio recordings of officers advising the Atherstone Hunt on which laws to use against sabs and monitors. The CA have ex senior officers manipulating police policy where they can. I’ve written on the subject before and will of course continue to do so. Where there is power there will be corruption and I believe it to exist at all levels within the police force.

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PC Sharon Roscoe & Inspector Lou Cordiner at the Belvoir Hunt Ball

We’ve worked with many that are genuine and honest, lots will even privately tell you that they support what we do and wish us the best, but the fact remains no matter how much progress we make (and that’s been considerable) with regard to police relations there remains an issue which needs to be resolved.

If you’ve been a follower of this blog you’ll no doubt be aware that I’ve been involved with the investigation regarding the killing of a fox on New Years Day by the Fitzwilliam Hunt near Wansford in Cambridgeshire. My report from the day can be found here. The legal process has been proceeding and Cambridgeshire Police carried out what appeared to be a thorough investigation and I was kept updated at regular intervals by the investigating officer.

Personnel from the hunt were interviewed under caution with their legal (and no doubt very expensive) representation present. I am now very happy to report that after reviewing the evidence which included that submitted by the hunt, the CPS are going to go ahead and prosecute both the huntsman, George Adams (now retired) and the bird of prey handler, John Mease.

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George Adams and John Mease – Let’s hope they’re not smiling after the court case.

They will be facing charges under the hunting with dogs act as well as a further charge of cruelty which arose during the investigation. As we all know the legislation with regard to the Hunting Act isn’t the most robust so I think it’s quite an achievement just to get the CPS to take one of the oldest and most influential hunts in the country to court. Obviously I can’t reveal any more regarding the details but should we get the desired outcome and gain a prosecution then it could have some serious implications for other hunts that use (or pretend to) the Bird of Prey exemption. Hunts may be forced to abandon the exemption if they know they are liable for prosecution and then they’ll have unwanted and costly birds of prey to get rid of.

At this point I’d like to thank Cambs Police for a solid job so far and those behind the scenes who advised me from the legal and animal welfare professions,  you know who you are.

However it’s not all good news. Once again the animal hunters prove their type by the vicious assaults which took place last weekend perpetrated by the Cheldon Buckhounds. A press release from the HSA can be found here. Further updates reveal that one sab has indeed a badly fractured skull that will require surgery from a specialist. The body cam the sab was wearing at the time was also stolen by his attackers, there’s a funding page for a new one here if you would like to donate.

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Cheldon Thug

You only have to look at some of the comments on the pro hunt Facebook pages to understand the sort of people sabs have to deal with week in week out. They really are the lowest of the low, and quite frankly I pity them. Their lives must be so twisted and bitter to think and write such things. Obviously my best wishes to all who suffered at the hands of these low lives and rest assured that it won’t end there.

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Bloodied by not beaten.