Posts Tagged ‘Northants Hunt Sabs’

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

So if you’ve been keeping up with my blog you’ll know that we’re fighting an injunction brought by the Fitzwilliam Hunt in an effort to stop us holding them to account for their blatantly illegal hunting. You can read more about it here (We’re In It to Win it).

The initial hearing at the High Court in London was last Thursday (1st November) and we were originally informed by the judge that his decision would be this week. Now we’ve been told that the decision won’t be ready until the 16th November which is somewhat frustrating (as this allows the Fitzwilliam to hunt in the mean time without any monitoring) but at least he’s taking time to consider it properly.

Nothing is ever certain in the British legal system, especially in complex cases such as this. Their argument is based purely around trespass and our defence is their illegal hunting, something which they’ve already been convicted of (Good Enough) and certainly should be a major consideration for the judge as no injunction should be granted if it allows the claimant to undertake an illegal activity. I have detailed notes from our day in court but at this time I’m somewhat reluctant to publish any details for fear of prejudicing the case. In due course I’ll release these details.

Needless to say the so-called Countryside Alliance were in attendance in the form of Polly Portwin, famous for telling huge porkies on national TV in relation to the purpose of Terrier Men on a supposed trail hunt.

Although we reached our original funding target (huge thanks to all who donated so far) our costs are still rising so I’d encourage you to keep sharing and tweeting our link, we’re going to need every penny and this may not be the end of it. Once we get a decision from the judge some serious consideration will need to go into our next step, but for now we’re just waiting to see what the future may hold.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/fighting-the-fitz-injunction/

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Our Crowd Justice Funding page can be found here: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/fighting-the-fitz-injunction/

So another hunting season is over.

It’s always good to look back and evaluate what’s gone on and see how you can learn to make ourselves more effective in future operations. We’ve tried a new direction this year and it’s certainly been an interesting experience but whether it turns out to be a success or not still remains to be seen.

Traditionally there has been a lot of suspicion and distrust between activist groups and the police and not without good reason. However we’ve made a concerted effort to break down these barriers and this pretty much started after my conversation with the Chief Inspector after I published this story (see here). It still seems a little odd to me that 6 months down the line we’ve had no contact with the officer that was the subject of that story in her position of Wildlife Crime Officer. Whether she still holds that position or not I don’t know but I can only assume she does. From then on we did however have a reasonable flow of information coming from the police. We were assigned a liaison officer with whom I met and discussed the way forward and we have continued to keep a regular dialogue. For their part the police seemed to be improving and took illegal hunting more seriously as well as the threat to our safety from the moronic half wits who act as the hunts personal security force. With our help the police were able to identify that the hunt was clearly hunting illegally and while not able to prosecute they didn’t impede us while we operated.

The problems arose with consistency of officers and the nature of the way our operations work.

As a group we have our own intelligence network and rely on informants within the hunting community passing on meet information or simply local people who have had enough of hunt riding roughshod over them. I’m fairly sure the police will understand this and we would inform our liaison as soon as we knew we would be operating in the county. This would often be the day of the hunt however apparently this doesn’t give the police time to act in any meaningful manner. This proved to be the case on the 4th of March when we were assaulted and had cameras stolen in a private woodland behind the Oakley Hunt kennels. The perpetrators claims we were trespassing and had the right to remove us from the land when the truth of the matter was the complete opposite. One particularly obnoxious couple even took their toddler to the confrontation, something any normal parent would clearly wish to avoid. We’ve been in regular contact with the owners of the wood and needless to say they are not happy with what occurred and have made repeated complaints against the hunt and to the police.

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Police vehicle parked in the Oakley Hunt kennels

The fact the hunt denied all knowledge of the people involved speaks volumes about the obvious lies they are prepared to tell to cover their own arses. The vehicles owned by the people responsible were parked in the hunt kennels! The response of the police on the day was appalling to say the least. The officers were utterly uninterested in hearing our complaints and sided instantly with those who had committed the crime even though they didn’t know the full story. We will be having a meeting next month with the Inspector in charge of that part of policing for the county and shall make our feelings known. Slightly concerning was the lack of information being passed between the officers themselves. I spoke to our liaison some time after the incident expecting her to be aware of it and yet it was all news to her. Surely if an incident took place involving us the first person to be informed would be our liaison officer? Clearly there is work to be done here and as it stands we’ve withdrawn all contact until our meeting but for the time being we’ll continue down this path for as long as it takes to get these one sided attitudes changed.

Of course not all forces as the same. We’ve had a fair amount of contact with Cambridgeshire rural units and they’ve done pretty well by bringing the Fitzwilliam Hunt to court (26th/27th April), and at the very least being impartial and investigating illegal hunting when required. Leicestershire have been awful in the past but now have a number of officers trained in matters relating to hunting (Well done to Northants Hunt Sabs who had a big hand in this) but Northants Police still have a way to go although having said that it was nice to know that some of the main protagonists among the thugs have recently been arrested by the Northants force, some for the second time and after searches of their houses alleged stolen property seized. We have submitted plenty of video evidence against them so fingers crossed that justice will be served. I do know that forces further afield still turn a complete blind eye to illegal hunting and still actively persecute the sabs and monitors in the fields attempting to stop these crimes, perhaps this is due to the story I published here or senior officers are hunters themselves?

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One of the many we saved, this time from the Fitzwilliam.

From a sabbing point of view the season has been a bit up and down although we can comfortably say we’ve made a big difference. Like everything in life we have good and bad days but even on the bad days we’ve saved lives and that’s what really counts. Our attentions have reduced the Oakley to a pathetic shambles, more often that not with only a handful of riders and a huntsman who can’t control the hounds. We’ll be surprised if huntsman Calamity Jack still has a job next year. What’s also been clear is their lack of hunt country. Land owners have clearly been pulling out from giving them permission to hunt on their land, there can be no other reason for the hunt to be so restricted and using the same areas several times a season and now that there are hunt hounds implicated in the spread of bTB things are only going to get worse for them.

We’ve had some good PR in the press both local and national and this of course has lead to more public support and people inquiring about getting involved. We’ll be running a training day over the summer for these potential new sabs, we’ll be fund raising and doing some outreach with a stall in a local Lush this May and a vegan fair later in the summer.

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One of our own escorting the shambolic Oakley.

I think the biggest thing we have learnt is more about ourselves. No matter what abuse we face, be it physical or verbal we only come back stronger, no matter how difficult it may be to work with the authorities it only makes us more determined. The general public are overwhelmingly on our side and that’s a powerful weapon to wield in conjunction with an unshakeable spirit to stand up and do the right thing. The Countryside Alliance may bang on every year about record crowds at hunts but the facts are somewhat different. There can be only one final outcome, it’s just a matter of time.