Posts Tagged ‘North Cambs Hunt Sabs’

This is going to be a long blog post so grab a cuppa and settle  in.

If you’re a follower of our Facebook page or Twitter feed (give us like or a follow if you haven’t already) then you’re probably already aware of the outcome of the Thurlow Hunt trial.

If not then very briefly the hunt chased and killed a fox in Trundley Wood near Great Thurlow, Suffolk, on Boxing Day 2017. We were present when they did this and supplied the footage and statements which led to the conviction of the now retired Huntsman, Chris Amatt for hunting a wild mammal with dogs in contravention of Section 1 of the Hunting Act and Common Assault against myself as I retrieved the body of the fox.

The second defendant, Archie Clifton-Brown was found not guilty of the Hunting Act offence but guilty of Assault by Beating, once again, against me for retrieving the body of the fox.

The trial was held at Ipswich Crown Court but was a Magistrates listing. District Judge Nick Watson was presiding over the matter and the case lasted 3 days.

I have a whole load of notes from the day but for the purpose of this blog I’ll try and highlight the most salient points and those which piqued my interest in one way or another.

I was actually first on the witness stand to give evidence, we were informed that each witness would take approximately 30 to cross examine. An hour and half later I’m still on the stand, effectively getting tag teamed by 2 defence barristers who were doing their upmost to discredit my testimony and catch me out. They main problem they had of course is than when you have truth on your side you just have to take a deep breath, consider your answer and stick to the basics. They also had the issue in that I have a fair amount of hunting experience and this isn’t my first time on the stand. Some of the suggestions they made in defence of their clients ranged from the laughable and sinister to downright odd and irrelevant. They even asked me who trained me and how many paid members there were of the HSA! What that had to do with the case I’ll never know. The judge was clearly getting tired with their constant harassment and stepped in, forcing them to finally cease their questioning.

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Archie Clifton-Brown. He wasn’t smiling when he left court.

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Chris Amatt – Thurlow Huntsman in 2017

Our second witness was not only our most experienced sab but also an experienced horsewoman. This completely flummoxed the defence, her confidence in her knowledge of both hunting and riding was something they really struggled to deal with, it was a master class in the delivery of court evidence and the 2 (no doubt very expensive) defence advocates were quite frankly left floundering.

All of the remaining witnesses for the prosecution came across as both honest and credible regardless of their experience and how nervous they would obviously be in such a stressful situation. We are all professional people and hardly the swampy-esque, work shy, soap dodging terrorists the so-called Countryside Alliance attempt to paint us as.

When huntsman Chris Amatt took the stand it was time to really see what their main play was. It can be simply summed with the list below.

1 – The hounds accidentally got on the scent of a fox.

2 – The hunt staff made attempts to stop them but claimed once they were on a fox nothing could stop them apart from getting in front.

3 – There were over 20 sabs in the wood, arranged in a horseshoe shape who turned the fox back into the hounds as it ran north up the track in wood.

4 –  Sabs kicked and punched hounds and twisted the skin of the horses.

5 – Sabs tried to steal hounds.

6 – The fox, once dead was the property of the estate so it was justified to used force to prevent sabs from removing the body. Such an act was to be considered public spirited (really, that’s no joke).

7 – A sab from North Cambs is very tall (again, no joke)

8 – The hunting on calls were in fact Amatt making calls to stop the hounds

9 – Clifton-Brown wasn’t the Whipper In.

10 – Older hounds know the difference between a laid trail and a real animal and will know something is wrong (clever hounds those).

11 – Horn calls are for the benefit of the other riders and not really for any hound control.

Now the main problem with all of these claims are that they are complete nonsense, easily countered by both our statements and the very detailed videos we provided as evidence. The excellent prosecutor Richard Kelly had an absolute field day with Amatt, skillfully pointing out all in inconsistencies in his argument when compared to his statement. Quite frankly it was like watching a car crash in slow motion and to be honest quite uncomfortable viewing. Amatt started off looking fairly calm, but by the end he was clearly very rattled, red faced and losing his cool. A highlight of Amatts testimony was claiming I came at him like a “Red Indian”. Not really sure what that means, maybe I had a feather stuck in my hair?

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Picture of me in sabbing attire. Actually Red Cloud, Lakota chief (1822 – 1909)

If we thought that was bad on day 3 Clifton-Brown took the stand. Now what we have here is a very, and I mean very self entitled young man. He is part of the Vestey Family with cousin Robin Vestey as Master and owner of the hunt, the Thurlow Estate and a whole host besides (some background here) and his uncle is pro hunting and shooting MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. His behaviour on the stand was nothing less than arrogant and dismissive of the whole legal process. You could tell he honestly believed this was below him and he didn’t have to answer the questions put to him, he became highly animated, slapping his hands on the stand, refusing to answer questions and even arguing with the judge! Now I’m not sure what legal advice he had been given but just being compliant with the court and respectful of the process would have been a start, and all this from someone who is only in his early 20’s.

The defence called more witnesses including Robin Vestey, who they claimed was laying the trails on the day and also another Whipper In, William Burton. Here was a man with a very obvious dislike for anyone who didn’t agree with fox hunting. Now there was some fairly fruity language exchanged by both side during the incident but if you’re going to live in a glass house you shouldn’t really start throwing stones. Burton claimed they had used no such fowl and threatening language which was beautifully put to bed by Prosecutor Kelly playing the video where Burton shouted “Who do you think you are you little shit?” in my direction and the now quite famous line “Get it off him Archie” when referring to the dead fox.

With regards to the list earlier in this piece, this was in fact the reality as the judge saw it.

1 – The hounds got on the scent of a fox as they were in a wooded area likely to hold that animal and were there due to the huntsman taking them there.

2 – The hunt staff made no attempt to stop the hounds, their inaction was a clear indication this was, in fact, what they wanted to happen. It should also be considered that a huntsman with the experience of Amatt (29 years) should be able to easily control the hounds. He made constant references to being tuned into them and them to him. There were no voice or horn calls, no cracking of the whip.

3 – When the incident took place there were 3 of us directly involved positioned some distance to the north of where they were hunting. 2 more from our group were some distance behind and sabs from North Cambs were again some distance away to the east and arrived after the fox was killed. The total was 8 with a couple more arriving later. At no point did the fox turn north into us, the hounds hunted it southwards where it turned east across in front of us, most likely turned by Amatt himself.

4 – No evidence for this at all, in fact as vegans and lovers of all animals this goes directly against everything we stand for.

5 – Again no evidence of this either. It relates to a hound which became lost and was running through the village. We actually have footage of this as well along with Vestey on his quad looking at it and wondering what to do.

6 – This was a technicality the defence had cooked up in an effort to justify the use of force against me to recover the body of the fox as evidence. It was likened to someone smashing a glass in the face of another person in a pub. The landlord, who was friends with the assaulter could then claim as the glass belonged to him he could assault who he liked to retrieve it. They spent a long time pushing this but it ultimately failed as a gambit.

7 – Apparently being tall is bad. Clifton-Brown is a short lad and it was claimed he was intimidated by the tall sab. I find it amusing they didn’t compare Clifton-Brown with me as we’re much closer in height stakes.

8 – It is very clear in the video you can hear the classic hunting on calls of “On On On Come ooon” . The defence attempted to say this was Amatt attempting to call the hounds off and was in fact saying “come along, come along”. No huntsman would ever use those words and it must have been an embarrassment to even suggest this.

9 – Clifton-Brown was dressed in classic whipper in hunting attire. He wore a red coat, with pin and 5 buttons. He carried a whip which he claimed he couldn’t use although as a master and huntsman with a beagle pack this was clearly another lie. The judge in summing up noted that while it was clear Clifton-Brown had a much more important role in the hunting than was claimed there wasn’t enough proof to convict him on the Hunting Act offences.

10 – Hunting hounds aren’t the brightest of animals, they are bread for speed and stamina and for a single purpose. To suggest some hounds know the difference between a laid trail and when they are on the scent of a real fox is utterly laughable especially when you consider the hunt claimed to be using fox urine as a scent. This claim also seems to defeat the purpose of trail hunting.

11 – Now I’m sure there are other hunters reading this as I know they do but really, horn calls aren’t really anything to do with hound control? Why is it they all the hounds come running to the sound of it. Why is there a whole host of various calls in which the huntsman will use to calls the hounds? What complete and utter guff. They took us and the judge for fools and they paid the price.

In summing up the judge saw all the prosecution witnesses as honest and credible while he went on to describe the evidence supplied by the defence as “fanciful” and a clear fabrication in order to cover for their crimes.

Obviously all of those involved (from our side) are overjoyed at the result despite the rather pathetic sentences handed out. It should be noted that this wasn’t the fault of the judge as he can only sentence within the guidelines of the crimes committed.

Obviously CA head bumpkin Dim Tim Bonner had to make a statement and as usual was completely clueless.

“This is a disappointing judgment. This incident happened on Boxing Day 2017, the most popular day in the trail hunting calendar, when the Thurlow hunt was being followed by hundreds of supporters as well as dozens of masked animal rights activists. The idea that anyone would attempt to deliberately hunt a fox in such circumstances is quite bizarre.”

See the problem with Timmy’s quote is there were virtually no followers of the hunt, certainly not where the incident took place and there wasn’t even a huge riding field and none of us were wearing masks. And lets face it, most hunts deliberately hunt foxes all the time, why should boxing day be any different?

Finally a thank you to Sergeant Brian Calver of Suffolk Police’s rural team for the robust investigation. You can read their full statement here.

Full video below. (If the video isn’t showing on your device it can be viewed here)

 

So here we are and another start of a new year.

For a change my own festive period was relatively quiet compared to previous years and for that at least I’m thankful. While this was not necessarily the case country wide discussions in our sab wagon certainly seemed to conclude that many hunts in our area at least were keen to avoid any unnecessary and negative press by being caught killing wildlife. Many of the hunts which traditionally take place on Boxing Day and New Years Day were met with demonstrations and this is of course great news. While demo’s won’t save lives in the fields they are important in showing the real feeling among the general public and they have, overwhelmingly, had enough. Hunters and their supporters live in a bubble of their own propaganda and self justification, having middle England turn out on a cold and miserable day waving placards and shouting at them goes some way in bursting that bubble. It also shows the supporters of hunting for what they really are as they resort to abuse and violence in response – they know no other way.

While Timmy and his cronies at the so-called Countryside Alliance were on overtime and once again claiming record turn outs in support of these hunt meets it was abundantly clear, more so than ever, that hunting really is on the decline.

Not so long ago hunts would have had large turnouts in both riders and foot support for these events. They would have hunted on regardless of monitor or sab activity but now that’s simply not the case. Some hunts just chose to parade, the Cambridge with Enfield Chace haven’t hunted for the last few years at their Eltisley Boxing Day meet after they were embarrassingly sent home by the police after killing fox in 2016. The road & green used to be chock-a-block with cars and 4×4’s and getting a drink in the pub would be impossible. As far as I’m aware the pub is no longer hosting the meet and they just now meet on the village green. Just look at this aerial shot we took, the turnout is, to be frank, utterly pathetic.

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Pathetic for a Boxing Day meet.

One has to wonder why they even bothered. Surely its embarrassing to see such a crappy turnout and pointless to get all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The Fitzwilliam faced concerted opposition on New Year’s Day meet at Wansford. Around 50 people turned out to voice their disapproval and there was also some humour thrown in for good measure.

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We agree.

Fitzwilliam Master Philip Baker seemed a bit riled by the anti-hunt sentiment in the crowd and this photo speaks volumes.

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Philip Baker looking a bit concerned, or constipated, could be either.

Another amusing part of that day for us was watching the hunt trotting up the road with a police escort to where all their horse boxes were parked, turning in and all the support parking their vehicles further on at the side of the road, getting out with their binoculars expecting to see the hunt carry on out that back of the farm and start hunting. What they actually saw was some empty Cambridgeshire fields with a few sad looking cows and nothing more. The Hunt had clearly neglected to tell their support that they’d got out of bed for nothing as they put their horses away and buggered off with their tales between their legs.

We had this all confirmed by the police as we chatted with them while they left. While some forces and officers are clearly pro hunt and biased this particular officer we know from the past and was the same one which sent the Cambridge and Enfield Chace home a few years earlier.

Some demo’s got a little bit tasty as drunken hunt support tried to take control of the proceedings and the police had to intervene. A member of East Kent Sabs sustained a nasty injury as he was attacked by hunt hooligans at a meet of East Kent with West Street Hunt and the Atherstone Hunt supporters were predictably aggressive.

What these morons fail to comprehend is that this type of behaviour only strengthens our claims that the hunts are nothing more than organised crime organisations followed by low life thugs and hooligans. The chocolate box image they try and portray has now long gone, the Great British public see them for what they really are and are now finding their voices an making their feelings known.

Finally I’d like to say hi to this chap, Matthew Higgs:

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He was following of the Old Berkeley Beagles who’ve been sabbed a couple of times recently but better known for his connection to the Trinity Foot Beagles and also an avid reader of my blog. Thanks for increasing my viewing figures Matthew but if you really must quote me please get your facts right first, it just makes you look a bit daft.

Happy New Year.

First off apologies for the lack of updates, this time of year is stupidly busy as the hunting season reaches it’s zenith over the holiday period. Most people who take an interest in our activities will have no doubt heard the story of the Fitzwilliam hound tragically killed on the A14 recently (full story here) and I’m not going to go over it all again but instead perhaps offer what could be an explanation as to why it happened in the first place.

Now after the incident the pro hunt side were very quick in going into damage limitation mode and discredit the images and video supplied by those that were there. These ranged from the daft to the downright ridiculous. The most common claim was that the hound in the picture was in fact a Labrador and even one said it was a giant Corgi, seriously, I kid you not. There were also claims the fox (which was clear to see by all but the most myopic) was a pheasant and as expected that it was the fault of sabs for calling the hounds on to the road.

At this point I feel the need to dispel any of the pro hunt myths that this is something any sab would consider. The harming of any animal is so contrary to the very basis of our ideology that it is utterly laughable. We know that both hounds and horses are also victims of the hunting business and not just the wildlife that is hunted and killed.

Moving on tt’s pretty clear in the video that if it wasn’t for the actions of the sabs present then the incident could have been a significantly worse and it was only down to their actions that not more hounds and indeed people that were killed on a very fast bit of dual carriageway.

So lets put a bit of context to how the Fitzwilliam were hunting on that day.

As is usual they were claiming to follow a trail but also had resident budgie trainer John Mease skulking about with his Eagle although some distance from the hounds. This dual lie is of course complete nonsense and not legal in any sense but just to add a little extra to the pot lets have a look at the land on which they were hunting.

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OS map of the location

The A14 is the large green road showing diagonally across the map above. The wind was very blustery and blowing from the north. Now you could quite easily suggest that even being that close to the A14 with a loose pack of hounds to be highly questionable at best, and at worst, just completely reckless. Lets take a look closer from Google.

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Close up of the incident area

There’s a small covert called George’s Thorns in the bottom right corner of the photo (the one shown in full). Let’s take a guess who owns that . . .

The Milton Estate, or in simpler terms, the Fitzwilliam Hunt.

The other day I was sent a couple of photos and a short explanation of what they were showing by an anonymous supporter. They pointed out that in that covert is a badger sett. A badger sett which had very recently been interfered with which is of course illegal in itself. It looked like it had been dug out and refilled. We all know the role of terrier men within the hunt. Their sole purpose has nothing to do with mending fences but to dig out or bolt foxes when they seek sanctuary underground.

Here are the pictures.

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This area has clearly been created by human activity. You can see spade marks in the earth and the area has been cleared of growth and the usual detritus one would assume on the edge of a wood. It’s then obviously been back filled after whatever activity had been completed.

Now consider that a fox was seen and filmed fleeing the hounds from the direction of the covert in question. Had the Fitzwilliam hunted a fox to ground and then dug it out prior to the hound being killed on the road? They were certainly unaware of the presence of sabs at that location as they were on a footpath a short distance away but hidden from view by a hedge and reports from the day suggest hounds had been speaking prior to the incident. If they believed they were away from prying eyes they may have been empowered enough to commit these acts of criminality.

If they did indeed dig out the fox it would only go further in suggesting they were desperate for a kill, underestimated (or simply didn’t care about) the wind direction which blew the scent of the fox over the A14 and are thus even more implicit in the death of one of their own hounds, if that’s possible!

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I’ve added some annotations and graphics to the Google image to explain. Let’s go over the facts.

1 – The Fitzwilliam Hunt own George’s Thorn covert.

2 – Coverts are traditionally kept for hunting purposes.

3 – There is a badger sett in George’s Thorn covert which has been dug out very recently.

4 – A fox was observed and filmed running from the direction of the covert with the hounds in pursuit on the day in question.

5 – The riding field were in an ideal position to view all the action and obviously placed there by the field master.

6 – The wind was blowing from the North.

7 – The fox escaped in the drainage ditch next to the A14.

8 – John Mease was a significant distance away.

9 – A hound was killed on the A14, possibly following the scent of the fox as it blew over the dual carriageway.

10 – The Huntsman (Simon Hunter) was nowhere to be seen and left it to Whipper In Shaun Parish to deal with the mess.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Finally I hope all my readers have a great holiday break. Why not walk off some of that Christmas dinner and visit your local hunt, there are several demo’s taking place so pop along and show these wildlife abusers what the Great British public really think about their sordid little minority pastime. There’s a list of demos on the HSA Facebook page.

 

I guess now that the ink is dry on deal, or mores the point the PDF documents have been signed, I can enlighten the very many of you who have expressed an interest in the Fitzwilliam Injunction saga. If you’re not fully up to date then you can catch up here and here. OK, so assuming you know what’s been occurring I’ll fill you in on the rest of the details.

At the end of last week our legal representative was contacted by the Fitzwilliam’s legal team with an offer. That offer amounted to dropping those named from the injunction, with no claims made to costs provided we signed an agreement not to trespass on the claimants land. The claimants would still be pursuing an injunction against persons unknown.

Now this may seem to be not a particularly good deal but in this instance you need to consider the wider context.

Firstly, it was pretty clear that the Fitzwilliam were very keen to avoid a full trial against those named on the injunction. The legitimacy of their evidence and in particular their hunting methods had been seriously called into question by Mr Justice Freedman, along with the behaviour of their so called hunt stewards. Had the Fitzwilliam felt they were in a strong position they would have pushed on regardless.

Secondly, their claims for harassment, trespass against goods and the utterly laughable claims of assault were denied by the judge. Mr Freedman also noted that assaults did appear to have been carried out by the hunt staff and this could be followed up by the victims should they wish, causing another potential embarrassment for the hunt.

Thirdly, there would be no claims for costs. It was estimated that the hunt had spent in excess of £120,000 in bringing this injunction. That’s enough to make even the most financially wealthy hunt think seriously about taking out similar action and this is what we wanted to achieve. Most hunts rely on local land owners to allow them to hunt, the Fitzwilliam are one of the few who own a significant amount of land on which to hunt however they still leave this land for a large amount of their hunt season. With this in mind you have to ask yourself, did they get value for money?

Not really.

All they ended up with was a list of people who couldn’t trespass but could still use public rights of way and open access land within their estate. That’s not really a huge achievement given the level of investment. Their actual hunt country is in the region of 384,000 acres, they only actually own just over 4% of that. Now while they are pushing ahead with the persons unknown part of the injunction it is still a civil action and not something the police can get involved with. Sure, if you break the injunction the claimants can serve you and a judge could send you to prison for contempt of court however for that to happen the claimants have to know who you are. If previous junctions with regards to persons unknown are anything to go by, they would appear to be almost impossible to enforce.

The single biggest factor in favour of the hunt was the level of financial clout they could bring to bear for this undertaking. As normal working people we had no hope of raising the funds necessary to take this to full trial and with the outcome in question there was a real danger of losing what assets we have, had the case not gone our way. Simply put, there was no way I, or any of the others were going to lose their houses over this. All of the named defendants were of course hugely grateful to all the people who donated, some who shall remain nameless pledging some significant sums but having the funds to fight this was only half the story and no reduction in the final risk of having costs awarded against us.

Now the Fitzwilliam and their supporters may think differently, but the simple fact is we came out of this saga a whole lot better than they did.

Finally the costs of achieving this have exceeded what our original Crowd Justice funding covered and has left some of us significantly out of pocket. Please consider helping by donating here: Financial Costs