Posts Tagged ‘John Mease’

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.

fitzwilliam-hunt-george-adams

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.

1

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.

mease

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.

dead fox

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.

. . . the Fitzwilliam case. This will be my last comment on the saga so let’s crack on.

It would appear that there will be no appeal. I’d held off commenting further and releasing the footage to the general public just on the off chance that an appeal would be forthcoming even thought the stated time limit for any appeal had long since past. Just for the point of clarity the law states:

“52.12 – 2(b) where the court makes no such direction, and subject to the specific provision about time limits in rules 52.8 to 52.11 and Practice Direction 52D, 21 days after the date of the decision of the lower court which the appellant wishes to appeal.”

As the case was heard back in April I think I can now safely assume it’s all done and dusted. As I commented before there was plenty of noise coming from Tim Bonner of the so-called Countryside Alliance about appealing but it was very much left in the hands of the Huntsman George Adams who now retried, would gain little from another court appearance except perhaps increasing the chance of a heart attack.

The ramifications of this conviction in the wider hunting community may already be starting to take effect. A post by Norfolk/Suffolk Hunt Sabs regarding the Easton Harriers highlighted the fact they were looking into purchasing a bird of prey in an effort to circumnavigate the law and allow them to keep killing our wildlife illegally. However these efforts appear to have been shelved once they realised that this exemption would no longer give them a suitable alibi. One has to wonder how many other hunts which have purchased birds are now reconsidering their options?

At the Trial

As part of my statement and evidence during the trial I submitted a detailed map I created using an aerial photograph and noted places where footage was taken and the approximate path of all concerned. While not 100% accurate (these thing can never be so) it was accepted by the court and used by the judge, the prosecution and the defence as a point of reference for the proceedings. This was actually quite an important aspect and it was never challenged by the defence in any way (see below).

map

Throughout the trial the defence’s main avenue of attack appeared to be based on 3 aspects.

(1) John Mease never had the opportunity to release the bird due to environmental restrictions (the fox was never in the open for sufficient time for a release).

(2) Sabs had turned the fox back into the hounds.

(3) To discredit the main witness (me) regarding the use of a hunting horn.

Defence Failures

(1) Defence barrister Stephen Welford put in a huge effort to clear Mease, something which he achieved however as described in an previous blog post this was due to the technicalities in the law and the control of the hounds and not through any of his own efforts. Under examination it became clear that Mease had claimed in his original statement that the fox had run in the clear for 120 metres and this should have been enough for him to release the bird if he wished to. However he also stated that he would never release the bird on grounds of safety if others were present, this would include members of the public, dog walkers and sabs. Once this was accepted to be the case then they would have to cease any and all actions in the pursuit of the quarry, in this case the fox the hounds would kill a short time later.

(2) This claim seems to be pretty standard tool in the defence’s box of dirty tricks. The problem in this case was once again the video evidence supplied. Even the video supplied by Mease himself undermined their own claims. Welford attempted to suggest on multiple occasions that sabs were responsible for the death of the fox due to their location and intervention. Our interaction was roughly as follows:

SW – “Do you accept that the fox was killed due to your actions?”

AA – “I do not.”

SW – “Do you accept that your presence lead to the hounds killing the fox in the field where you were located and that in fact you turned the fox into the hounds?”

AA – “I do not – further to that the video speaks for itself. Look at the video evidence. At the point where the hounds are killing the fox the only persons present at that location (a different field from my location) are riding horses and wearing red hunting jackets”.

(3) Another underhand attempt at discrediting me as a witness was the claim that I was using a hunting horn. Horns can certainly be heard on the video but it certainly wasn’t I who was using one. Welford asked the question several times;

“Did you have in your possession a horn and use it at any time?”

My answer was clear – “No, I didn’t have a horn on that day”.

Welford then fast forwarded the video to a point after the kill and froze the image. The image showed a horn in my hand. Taken out of context this would appear to show me as being dishonest in the court. This was however, of no concern to me. Even though Welford thought he’d caught me out I knew where he was going with this and was ready with an explanation.

I asked the court to rewind the video to another point and then play again. During the scuffle after the hounds had killed the fox you can clearly see me pick up a horn which had been dropped on the ground. Where this came from I still have no idea, however it proved to the court that prior to the kill I wasn’t in possession of a hunting horn. I have to admit to feeling quite smug over that one. For someone clearly being paid a lot of money Welford had failed completely and the expression on his face said enough.

Watch the video and draw your own conclusions. I have edited the end a little as the main points relative to the case are prior to the death of the fox and the scuffle over the body is largely irrelevant. One final point is the claim that Adams, at no point saw the fox. This seems somewhat unlikely given it ran right past him and he admitted to hunting this area several times in a season and would know where any likely quarry will run.

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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?