Posts Tagged ‘South Cambs Hunt Sabs’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Just a short update this week as I had hoped to be making the final preparations for my time in court as a witness for the prosecution of the 2 members of the Fitzwilliam Hunt. When you consider the offence took place on the 01/01/16 you begin to understand that the legal process is not something which proceeds quickly and there is good reason for that. However the when dates and locations for the hearing get changed multiple times it can get somewhat frustrating.

The case was supposed to be heard this week (26/27th) at Chelsmford Magistrates but I was contacted by a court official only last week and informed that the case would now be heard in August at Colchester Magistrates. While this delay is annoying the reasons behind it could be deemed to be in the prosecutions favour. Due to the high profile of the case it couldn’t be heard in the county where the offence took place (Cambridgeshire) so other courts and magistrates had to be considered. I was informed the reason for the late delay was due to “court politics”. According to a legal expert who has been advising me court politics usually refers to a “magistrate that was due to hear the case that had obviously expressed some views about hunting which compromised their ability to hear the case objectively”.

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George Adams & John Mease

This being the case I guess I should be pleased with the delay although that statement could be taken in the both for and against (hunting) points of view. Further details from the court official once again highlighted that this particular case was more akin to that of a murder trial (to be honest I consider it a murder trial of the fox on that fateful day) in that it is being heavily scrutinised and is also the first time the use of the Bird of Prey Exemption has been challenged in the courts.

The investigating officer also contacted me the day after asking if we were all ready to go and I had to inform him of the further delays as he was unaware. From his point of view it made no difference as he wouldn’t have to attend the court on the day. Even though he was the investigating officer he didn’t conduct any of the interviews so wouldn’t be cross examined by the defence, as this was done by more senior colleagues from the serious crime section, another sign that things were being taken very seriously indeed.

While preparing for my day in court I did go over my statement and also reviewed the video footage. It doesn’t get any easier to watch and of course in my mind there can be only one outcome but, this is the Hunting Act and nothing is straight forward where that is concerned.

Well that was a hectic weekend.

We’ve had quite a few requests from people wanting to get directly involved with saving our wildlife and of course that’s great however as the hunting season comes to an end the hunts get more desperate to kill and tensions increase. It’s certainly no time to introduce someone new to the game where cool heads and experience are required.

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The Walk of Shame

As a group we’ve had the polar opposites in terms of operations. First we hit the North Bucks Beagles mid week after a tip off and they packed up the moment they saw us and then at the other end of the scale were the Fitzwilliam who hunted to the last. Even with 4 sab groups combined against them this hunt refused to lose face and jack it in. They hunted several foxes and came very close indeed to killing at least two. We’re fairly certain without our presence the mortality rate would have been high and when you consider this is the same hunt in court next month you begin to understand their arrogance and belief they can do what they like.

A few of interesting points from the day stick in my mind.

First one was the fox which passed close to us followed by the hound about a minute behind. The huntsman (Simon Hunter) shouted at us, “Why didn’t you stop them?” of course we held them up as best we could and indeed believe it gave fox enough time to find cover and escape however these weren’t the words of a man concerned with the welfare of the fox the hounds were ‘accidentally’ after. These were the words of someone covering their own arse. This was indeed his attempt at an alibi should we have the evidence to bring them to court again. The Fitzwilliam use the Bird of Prey Exemption and I’ve written about this before at length (see here) but also by using this exemption they are admitting to hunting a live quarry. Of course to use this loophole the bird of prey has to be in a position to hunt the flushed animal and as usual this is simply never the case. The bird and handler (John Mease – also court next month for hunting act offences and cruelty) are only ever there for show.

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One of several that we helped get away.

The whole day really was like pre ban hunting. Badger setts were blocked (and unblocked by our colleagues at North and South Cambs Sabs) foxes were hunted to ground and one escaped in a grave yard where the fence bars were narrow enough for the fox but not the hounds. Whenever you see hunt staff dismount you know there’s trouble afoot and get in there as quick as possible. The weasily little turd of a Whipper In hit me with his hunting horn as I pulled out the hounds but I’ve been hit by bigger and tougher people than him and not backed down and they didn’t get the fox which is all that matters.

Later on two riders were using their horses as weapons against a sabs and when we intervened a particularly overweight and ugly rider (we’ll call him Tubbs for a couple of reasons) completely lost his sh*t and violently reacted by whipping a sab in the head. This could have resulted in a very serious injury, it was very close to her eye but luckily she receive nothing more than a sore red lump. Typically Tubbs showed once again what cowards they really are. Once the police arrive on the scene he had vanished, clearly scared to face any repercussions.

Speaking of the police it would seem that the Northants force has some way to go to understand the Hunting Act. When officers finally arrived after multiple calls they were as expected not interested in any hunting offences. I took time to show the officers the very clear footage of the fox being pursued by the hounds and to my amazement they claimed that was not illegal. Now the officers were obviously not used to dealing with hunting related incidents however their excuse for claiming no law had been violated was the fact the fox got away and was not killed. This is of course complete nonsense, a hunt only has to show intend to be guilty and the Fitzwilliam had shown this in spades. The hunt master then declared to the officer that they were going to continue on private land and to detain the sabs present to stop them following. I once again pointed out that you can enter private land to prevent a criminal offence and as we had sufficient evidence to suspect this may take place were would go where we pleased. I also pointed out that trespass is a civil offence. The officers by this time were looking somewhat overwhelmed and stated to all present, “We’re only here for public order”. The master galloped off in huff with sabs in tow.

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Caption competition time!

The most amusing part of the day was seeing a hunt supporters expensive 4×4 in a ditch with the police looking on. It transpires the driver was so keen to get some pictures on his phone of our colleagues he completely forgot about keeping his car on the road with the predictable results. No doubt a fine and some points will be following shortly.

Finally it’s great to see at least one hunt brought to justice. 3 members  of the Grove and Rufford Hunt (Paul Larby, 58, Peter White, 57, and Jane Wright, 63) were found guilty at Mansfield Magistrates. Of course they claimed the official “it was an accident and we were on a trail” lie but this time it seems to no avail. Interestingly the video evidence of them killing the fox was shot by a bird watcher who just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  District Judge Timothy Spruce said: “There is good and compelling evidence that the hunt was aware of the fox, but it appears there is no evidence that hounds were directed away.”

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The statement from the judge is quite interesting in that he saw that not calling the hounds off as intent, as opposed to catching the huntsman actively hunting the hounds on. This may have further reaching legal ramifications for future. Peter White was the terrier man and supposed trail layer for the hunt and was convicted purely for this basis proving once again if a hunt has terrier men then there is the intent to hunt a wild mammal. The 3 convicted are considering an appeal, but deep down even they will admit they are guilty with the appeal purely a face saving exercise and perhaps an attempt to get a more sympathetic judge. It’s just a shame the penalties aren’t much stiffer. Maybe some jail time if proved guilty would be more of a deterrent in the future.

 

It’s been quite an intense few days.

As the Oakley are such an embarrassingly bad hunt we decided our efforts would be better spent elsewhere so decided to join our comrades from the North & South Cambs groups. The full report of the day can be found on our Facebook page. What we didn’t know of course at the time was the impact that days sabbing would have.

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The incident regarding the nutter with the chain made several national news outlets including the Fail Online (which of course got some details wrong) and the Mirror who’s coverage was more complete. We’ve also been contacted by the BBC’s regional news team so expect they will be covering the story as well. I’ve been in contact with the press fairly constantly over the last few days but the PR is priceless so worth the effort.

Of course there is nothing new in these types of incident. I’ve been reporting on them all season but once again the hunts and their supporters are being shown up for what they really are, violent thugs who can only use threats, abuse and violence to justify their ends. As we arrived at the location to offer assistance to those under attack the terrier men responsible for the assaults on the sabs fled the scene when the odds weren’t so heavily stacked in their favour and this is typical of the mindset of these people. Although they were masked at the time we did catch footage of them unmasked and these will be sent to the police.

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Can you identify these men?

It would be very easy for the hunt to pass on their details to the police as they are no doubt paid employees of the Cottesmore but considering the hunt master, Nicholas Leeming wouldn’t even condemn their actions when challenged and could only mutter some nonsense counter claims before riding off speaks volumes. They need these cap doffing low lives to do their dirty work and if things get a little too close to home they can always disown them.

These weren’t the only crimes committed that day even if you ignore the blatantly illegal hunting and foxes aren’t the only animals to suffer. As we tracked the hunt across the Leicestershire countryside we counted around 5 large badger setts which had been completely trashed where spade marks were clearly visible. The terrier men do this in the morning before the hunt to prevent any foxes escaping underground. Even if your twisted view of hunting defines it as a sport, this is certainly not very sporting and also completely illegal. Interfering with a badger sett is covered by the Protection of Badgers Act 1992. The local wildlife groups have been informed and we returned to open up some of the wholes where we could to allow the badgers access to above ground. With all this in mind you’d think it would be a no brainer for Rutland County Council to withdraw from hosting the hunt on Boxing day but just in case there is a petition to remind them about the issue.

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Trashed sett entrance with clear spade marks.

It was the 12th anniversary of the Hunting Act last weekend and you have to ask yourself what has changed? If I’m honest not a lot, the hunts are still hunting foxes, hares and stags and people like me are still out there stopping them but the tide is definitely turning. They’re no longer having things all their own way and public opinion against hunting is stronger than ever. In some parts of the country the police are no longer servants of the hunt and the mountains of media coverage is making life very uncomfortable. Ultimately there is only one outcome. We will win, it’s just a matter of time.