Posts Tagged ‘Hunting Act’

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?

The Atherstone Hunt are finished.

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George Whitemore – Atherstone Huntsman 1906

This is of course incredible news and testament to the dedication and perseverance of a small group of people who took it upon themselves to protect the wildlife that was routinely persecuted by this organised gang of criminals, often with the full support of the police.

Full statement from West Mids Hunt Sabs below:

After six long years of an unrelenting and unstoppable campaign by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs the 200 year old Atherstone Hunt have finally thrown in the towel and folded.

We have faced harassment, extreme provocation and regular violence from those associated with the Atherstone Hunt. We’ve received death threats, had our tyres slashed, cars burnt out and have been hospitalized. We have also faced a hostile campaign of police harassment from Leicestershire Police who have actively sabotaged investigations against the Atherstone Hunt whilst constantly seeking to prosecute members of our group at all costs.

We persevered and never backed down. Despite the regular violence we have faced our campaign has always remained non-violent. Over the last six years we have sabbed almost every single meet of the Atherstone Hunt. They have collected over 20 criminal convictions and cautions for their violence and antisocial behaviour and at their worst they were making the national press every other month for their hunting and violence. As well as stopping them killing foxes twice a week every week we have been able to expose the real face of fox hunting.

We witnessed them kill numerous foxes in front of us but that only made us more determined. We exposed all businesses that supported them. We held demonstrations at their biggest events of the year and at all of their fundraising events.

For six years the Atherstone Hunt have been completely sabotaged and as a result they have now folded. This means that for now the 908 km² area of West Leicestershire and North Warwickshire are completely hunt free and hundreds of foxes lives will now have been saved

Ultimately the Hunting Act needs to be strengthened however we are not waiting around for politicians to change the law or corrupt police forces to enforce the law. Fox hunting is cruel and barbaric and has no place in the 21st century. Hunt saboteurs will shut hunts down one by one until hunting is consigned to history.

Our only concern remains the safety and welfare of the hounds. We have notified relevant authorities

We would like to thank all the different sab groups who have helped us and joined us in sabbing the Atherstone Hunt over the years. We would also like to thank all of you who have donated towards fuel and equipment costs over the years, all the kind words and encouragement and all the tip offs and information sent to us.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Dedicated to Leanne Bridgewater.

If I can put this achievement into some perspective take a look back at this blog post I wrote back in 2015 (see here). It’s a meet of the Atherstone. Look at the number of supporters alone.

It was a hunt of some significance. I can remember driving to the meet on that particular day and seeing a least a mile of parked up support vehicles on both sides of the road. The riding field was huge.

Not any more.

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Trying to drum up support

Of course the hunting community are probably feeling a bit miffed right now to say the least. The FB page,This is Hunting UK are trying to rally support but the problem they have is a simple one. It’s impossible to promote hunting in a positive way to everyone when hunting is just a cruel and illegal minority pastime. The British public, by a vast majority no longer accept the lies spouted in an effort to save their sick little hobby.

This isn’t the first hunt to go to the wall, it certainly won’t be the last but the method in which this one was helped on it’s way should be considered a blueprint for others with the same goals.

To all those at West Mids Hunt Sabs – I salute you.

Finally I’d like to say “Hi” to Adrian Henson. I love it that you share my blog among your bumpkin friends online, it improves my figures! Did you like the one about the letter?

UPDATE: Comment from the hunt themselves on their FB page.

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We have a guest blog this week, an opinion piece written by someone only known as Scorpiovulpes, a monitor with a vast experience of hunting in England and the often pathetic response of the police and CPS in dealing with this illegal minority pastime. It’s a good read so grab a cuppa and settle in.

I have monitored hunts for twenty five years, and I can honestly say my shock and disgust have not abated one bit during all that time. It seems that the world of hunting is a strange alternative universe existing here among us. All the rules are reversed, all the standard codes are turned on their head.  Accepted norms of behaviour are ignored, and punishment is meted out to the innocent, not the guilty.

The most innocent of the victims of this sinister world are the hunted animals.  There are laws in place in England,  Wales and Scotland which purport to ban hunting and thus protect the hunted animal.  Do they?  Of course they don’t!

These weak laws were drawn up by people who did not understand the true nature of the hunter.  They failed to listen to the people who had the measure of hunters – i.e. the monitors and the sabs.  They totally underestimated the ruthlessness of the hunters, and failed to grasp how determinedly they would continue their cruel pastime no matter what the law said.  They failed to understand that hunters fundamentally believe they are above the law and they can do as they please, that they believe nobody – nobody – can tell them what they may and may not do.

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Openly flouting the law.

And so we have a situation, 14 years after the ban was instituted in England and Wales, where hunting continues unabated, covered by the smokescreen of “trail” hunting.  I will state without hesitation my opinion that trail hunting does not exist, and never has.

It is an illusion – well, basically, it’s a con.

So the monitors still have to go out to hunts and do the best they can to film what is really happening, collecting evidence which, in very rare cases, will actually get to court, but more realistically will form part of the library of shocking evidence which will lead to the strengthening of the Hunting Act and the creation of a real ban on hunting, a true death knell for this vile and barbaric practice.  The sabs still go and risk their safety in order to protect the hunted animals and save the lives of as many as they can.

The hunts are absolutely infuriated by the presence of sabs or monitors, whose safety is at real risk every time they go out.  It is common practice for hunts to call in so called “hunt stewards” – typically a particularly nasty species of inadequate and thuggish person who, given a baseball cap with “hunt steward” on the front, think they’re somebody and start throwing their weight around.  They behave in an unbelievably obnoxious way.  They constantly harass and impede the monitors, surrounding them, continuously trying in every possibly way to wind up the monitor they are victimising (usually a female and/or elderly person) to try and make them lose their cool.  I could write a whole book on this subject, but instead I suggest you view the film of this type of behaviour that you will find on all the monitor and sab Facebook pages, and also on You Tube.  These films speak for themselves, and make grim viewing.

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Hunt Steward hat but dead behind the eyes and delusions of adequacy.

So we have an orchestrated conspiracy to hunt illegally being conducted between the hunts and their lackeys, the whole scenario being  protected from scrutiny by obstructive, menacing and threatening behaviour .

Well, you might say, the police must be very concerned about this.  They must be shocked to see the film.  The CPS must be very willing to act on the clear filmed evidence presented to them.  This is where you need to grasp the extent of the alternative universe we are talking about,  as the very opposite is the case.  Police scrutinise the film to try to pin something on the innocent monitors (or sabs),  They downplay the seriousness of the behaviour of the stewards.  They churn out the old chestnut “six of one and half a dozen of the other” when it would be obvious to a five year old that this is categorically not the case.

Time and again the monitors and sabs are left shocked and disgusted by the lack of action by the law enforcement agencies over the whole scandal of illegal hunting and its attendant intimidation and violence.

So they turn to Facebook.  For all its faults, Facebook has provided a lifeline for campaigners, and has led to a turning point in the general public’s understanding of the sheer and utter horror of illegal hunting, the cruelty, the deviousness, the thuggery  –  the lengths gone to to protect this abomination from scrutiny.  Sometimes when the absolutely disgusting behaviour of a hunt steward is exposed on Facebook or another arena, the subject of the film uses devious means to have the film taken down.  Fortunately this only works short term as their reasons are bogus and the films are usually reinstated.  But this again shows how secretive and how absolutely without morals are the people involved in hunting.

It is not  only the stewards who behave in a revolting way.  People who no doubt consider themselves to be the cream of society will barge you with their horses, swear at you, persistently drive at very low speeds in front  of you to prevent you keeping up with the hunt, even assault you.

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Terrier men – Lowest of the low. What purpose do they have on a “trail” hunt?

So there you have the alternative universe of illegal hunting for your edification.  The hunters throw a threadbare cloak of respectability over themselves with a claim of “trail hunting”.  They lie.  They bully.  They abuse.  They bring in their hunt thugs to protect themselves from scrutiny.  The law enforcers of the land, who are paid by the taxpayer and whom we are told to respect, more often than not support them, sometimes hunt with them.  I have seen a high court judge out hunting, a meet held at a magistrate’s house, ex police officers hunting, uniformed police officers laughing and joking with obnoxious hunt heavies, while a woman monitor was held captive in her car and the police refused to help her.  I have heard a female police officer tell a hunt master she would try and get me to leave the hunt so the hunt could carry on as they wished.  The list goes on and on and on.  You may think that, if the police fail in their duty, there is a robust police complaints system.  All I can say to that is, you try it – and good luck.  Very recently a District Judge found a hunt not guilty of illegal hunting, giving one of the reasons for his decision that he did not believe a hunt master would lie and perjure himself.  This kind of thing leaves those of us at the sharp end of this situation in absolute despair.

I have given you my opinion as a seasoned and long term hunt monitor.  You are free to disbelieve me if you choose, but if so, I ask you to look at the plethora of filmed evidence that unequivocally illuminates the situation.  And ask yourself why all these people would go to such lengths to stop a non-violent individual from legally filming their activities.

We know the public are overwhelmingly against hunting. We know they are absolutely shocked when they see the evidence of what is happening in our countryside on a daily basis during the hunting season.  Between us all we can drag this alternative universe out of the dark ages and expose it to the light.  That way we will see it finally abolished.

That day cannot come soon enough.

 

The main hunting season may be over in my part of the world but elsewhere animals continue to be pursued by hounds for hours and then when finally exhausted, killed.

Stag and Hind hunting in the south west of England has made the news recently with the footage and evidence being released by my good friends over at Hounds Off which clearly illustrates that it is very much business as usual for the wildlife abusers who are killing with impunity.

For a better understanding of how this type of hunting is being allowed to continue you have to understand how they operate and how they are circumnavigating the law.

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Pre-ban image of a stag being shot after a long chase.

Prior to the ban, stags and hinds would have been selected from wild animals in the herd and singled out, then chased by a the pack of hounds over many miles until exhausted where the hounds would have been held at bay. At this point the huntsman would have approached and shot the animal. Sometimes these animals would have been captured before the hunt and then released into the hunting country, often a reserve animal would have been held in a horse box locally should the first escape, thus giving these psychopaths the maximum chance of a kill.

With the Hunting Act coming in to play in 2005 the hunts had to figure out a way to circumnavigate the legislation so they could continue to hunt, much like fox hunts did with the creation of “trail hunting”. There are several exemptions within the hunting act which will allow stalking and flushing out under certain conditions but all of these restrict the number of hounds to 2. This was clearly an issue for the deer hunters so they invented “relay hunting” where several pairs of hounds were used in relays to chase the quarry animal to exhaustion before being killed.

However the Quantock Stag Hounds fell foul of the law in 2007 when they were successfully prosecuted for breaching the Hunting Act while attempting to use this exemption and again in 2010 while claiming to “Rescue a Wild Animal (part 8 para 2).

From the point of view of the hunts there was clearly more work to be done in their efforts to avoid prosecution and for this they looked further afield for inspiration.

Commercial Whaling has been banned since 1986 and yet we’re still seeing these wonderful sentient creatures murdered in some numbers by countries who claim to be using the scientific exemption within the moratorium which allows the killing of whales for vaguely defined scientific purposes. Here was something the UK hunts could use as within the Hunting Act there existed a similar exemption, part 8, para 2;

Research and Observation

“The first condition is that the hunting is undertaken for the purpose of or in connection with the observation or study of the wild mammal”.

What has to be questioned here is what could possible be gained in terms of scientific knowledge by chasing a stag or hind for many miles before finally killing the animal and carving it up to be handed out as trophies? I’d argue with some certainty that we already know pretty much all we’re likely to about these native mammals and there can be no scientific justification for the hunts. However the CPS seem reluctant to take on these cases and the they have recently dropped several against the Devon and Somerset Stag Hounds.

What is abundantly clear is that hunting continues much as it did before the ban with the only change being the use of  2 hounds in relays. The Research and Observation exemption really needs to be challenged in the courts but for that to happen we need to be able to get it into the courts in the first place and for the CPS to grow some balls. It shouldn’t be too hard to disprove these nonsensical claims. Of course the best and final way to stop this hunting is a strengthening of the Hunting Act but that will probably also require a change in Government. Removal of these daft exemptions might not stop the hunting completely but it will certainly give the police and CPS a clear direction in prosecuting these criminals.