Posts Tagged ‘Thames Valley Police’

You may remember back in January I blogged about the Kimblewick being caught red handed pulling a fox from an artificial earth and throwing it in front of the hounds (see here). The pair involved were the hunt’s terrier man Ian Parkinson and the hunt President Mark Vincent. They were subsequently charged with causing unnecessary suffering to a fox under the Animal Welfare Act.

On Wednesday 30th of October they stood trial at Oxford Magistrates Court with District Judge Kamlesh Rana presiding.

I wasn’t at court on the day (I’ve seen enough of courts for the time being) but I have received detailed notes from someone who was so I’ll try and put together a straightforward account of the proceedings and highlight the relevant points so grab a cuppa and settle in.

First off a bit of background to the case. Undercover footage was supplied to the Hunt Saboteurs Association which clearly showed 2 men, forcing a fox from an artificial earth using drain rods and then dragging it by the tail before throwing it to be chased by the hounds of the Kimblewick hunt. You can clearly hear the huntsman making “hold hard” commands, waiting for the fox to be released. There is clear communication between the pair in the video and the huntsman.

kh

It is unknown what became of the fox.

The law states: It is an offence to; cause unnecessary suffering to a protected animal or, if being responsible for a protected animal, to permit any unnecessary suffering to be caused to any such animal (Section 62, Animal Welfare Act 2006).

As this is an animal welfare case it was clear a large majority of the court time would be spent arguing about the context of what happened and if indeed the welfare of the animal was compromised. This would come down to the 2 expert witnesses, both veterinary surgeons, David Martin in the case of the prosecution and a certain Stephen Lomax who also acted for the defence in the South Herefordshire Hunt case and was also prosecuted for careless driving, someone who’s credibility would seem to be in doubt even before the start of the case.

The incident all happened on land know as the ‘Big Willows’ and belonged to a Robert Stevens. His statement confirmed he was aware the hunt were using his land but not what they were up to. Whether this was actually the case or not is open to speculation but his answer is realistically the only one he could give, admitting you knew an illegal act was taking place and with your tacit knowledge is likely to lead to your own prosecution through joint venture. One has to consider whether any land owner would know what is taking place on their land and indeed the presence of artificial earths, a structure which needs significant work and disruption to the ground.

As Lomax explained in court, artificial earths are used to encourage foxes into an area with the idea that they will take up residence in the earth. He went on to explain that there would be 2 possible reasons for someone to pull a fox from an artificial earth. Firstly so a gamekeeper can shoot it for pest control reasons and secondly so it can be hunted.

Before we cover further testimony of the expert witnesses we should hear about another witness who’s identity is being withheld for security reasons. The witness had gone to the town square to see the hunt on the day in question. They noted there were about 30 riders and of course the hounds. It was here they overheard a conversation between Andrew Sallis (joint master and huntsman on the day in question as well columnist for Horse and Hound) and a hunt supporter. Sallis had told this supporter there will be a “fox out” Moreton way so that’s where they should go. Up to this point the witness believed that they would be seeing a genuine trail hunt. They saw the hunt leave and head towards Moreton.

sallis.jpg

Andrew Sallis – Horse and Hound

This is of course pretty damning as it clearly implies that the whole episode was planned well in advance, several people were aware of what was going to transpire and they were telling people where the action would be.

When the video came to light Vincent and Parkinson were identified and interviewed under caution by PC Darren James, a Wildlife Crime Officer with Thames Valley Police. Both defendants confirmed they worked for the Kimblewick but then offered no comment interviews. This isn’t surprising as most people when arrested will be advised to give a no comment interview by any decent legal representative.

PC James visited the site of the artificial earth and took photos for evidential purposes however the photos of the earth submitted by Lomax appeared to be significantly different. These photos showed that the earth had been completely destroyed, someone had clearly been there in an attempt to hide the evidence. The fact the earth had been destroyed clearly put significant doubt in the judge’s mind as to the validity of the report which was submitted by Lomax on the subject.

In terms of the welfare of the fox several points must be proved, firstly if it was to be considered protected it must be under the control of man. As the earth was blocked at both ends the fox was effectively being held captive and no longer in a free state. Therefore it would indeed be under the control of man, whether this state is permanent or temporary.

FoxCam_opt

We now have to consider the potential suffering of the animal and this is where the expert witnesses came in.

Lomax stated that foxes were resilient and tolerant of adverse circumstances. He admitted that holding one by the tail is not ideal however also said that holding the tail and hind legs would be fine and the best way to avoid being bitten. He went on to claim that while the fox may have been in some discomfort it was not suffering unduly. He believed the fox was being handled in this way in the video as it was hanging vertically and saw it’s legs come down once it was released.

He went on to state that the hounds being close by would not have scared the fox or caused it any suffering, even adding that he had seen foxes going into hunt kennels although he did admit that it was entirely possible that it was being released to be hunted. When questioned further on his dislike for foxes Lomax stated “I like foxes more than badgers”. He also admitted that he was a hunt follower.

The prosecution expert witness David Martin obviously saw things differently. He stated that the handling in the video would have caused both mental and physical suffering. As the fox was pulled out quite forcefully by its tail there was the potential for dislocation and the stretching of nerves which would lead to further suffering.

Neither Parkinson or Vincent took the stand.

The court finding were very clear.

1. The video showed that the fox was trapped by man.

2. Audio confirmed the drain rods made contact with the fox which was then pulled by its tail and thrown.

3. The court accepts the animal was under the control of man and therefore protected.

4. The testimony of Mr Martin was more detailed, whereas Mr Lomax was vague and more concerned with minimizing the offence. 

Any sentence has to adhere to guidelines set out in law. In this case the judge will have to consider:

1. The deliberate and pre-planned nature of the offence.

2. The aggravating circumstances, in this case why the fox was held and then released – to be hunted with hounds.

3. The actions to assist an illegal activity (hunting with hounds).

Regardless of the fact neither defendant had any previous convictions (they’d just never been caught before) the judge took the view that this would cross the threshold of sentencing guidelines necessary for a custodial sentence.

They will be sentenced on the 26th November.

 

 

 

It turned out to be quite an eventful week, after writing my initial blog post there was movement on that particular case and the 2 terrier men from the Kimblewick Hunt were charge with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Once this was confirmed I pulled my post as there was no need to rock the apple cart with regards to Thames Valley Police any further.

What was slightly annoying was how the case was reported in the press. The BBC‘s short article was pretty typical with only the most basic of facts reported but it, like most of the others singularly failed to mention that the accused were taking part in an organised hunt and were in fact employees of the Kimblewick.

We can probably imagine the damage limitation exercise currently being undertaken by the that particular hunt as we speak and no doubt the 2 accused will be dropped faster than a hot potato. As usual the so-called Countryside Alliance’s head moron, Timbo Bonner has once again been deathly silent on the matter. One wonders if there’ll be more “bad apples” claims if they get convicted. The whole cider barrel is starting to look significantly acidic. All the fruit in the CA’s sphere would appear to be rotten, but we knew that anyway.

65242871_2735178486510867_1789386480498507776_o

Moving on from that I finally received the written ruling from the Fitzwilliam case. It was very interesting reading it’s contents as I had missed that day in court due to illness. This will of course provide the basis for any future cases against hunts that pretend to use the Falconry Exemption within the hunting act.

The ruling itself is 15 pages long so I’ll spare you all the details but the most salient points within the ruling were well worth the wait. It defines what is to be considered “flushing” and the differences between that and hunting and how they can, in certain circumstances overlap. It also defines what is “cover”. This was a much argued point in the court case and now both of these have been defined there can be no further disagreements in a court of law. Essentially cover can be pretty much any vegetation and flushing is not pursuing. If the hounds are chasing the animal they are hunting it.

There were also some other interesting points to note:

“Now, we heard some evidence about the history of the Fitzwilliam Hunt and the court understands that the huntsman in this case would want to use the existing pre 2004 infrastructure where possible. However, the Act was designed to change behaviours. Protecting and maintaining the infrastructure for posterity, no matter how laudable, cannot be a legitimate reason to use behaviours which do in fact break the law or do intermittently break the law.”

1

George Adams – Guilty

Tradition isn’t a defence for illegal hunting.

Judge Cooper continues:

“We note that the dogs were not called off the chase of the fox at any relevant point, with none of the three controlling riders, including George Adams, even closely present, nor was there any communication between the three of them, nor were any of the three capable of intervening at the moment when the fox met its end . . .”

In normal hunting cases the main point to prove is intent, however in this case the intent would appear to be given and lack of hound control is an offence in itself.

“Now, as the death of the fox demonstrates, we find that as a fact the hounds were not under meaningful control. We note our observation that since 2004 they had not been trained in fact to desist the chase, nor trained to desist from touching the prey if they caught up with it. From the point at which the fox broke away from the copse, to the time the dogs killed the fox, Mr Adams exerted no effective control of the dogs involved in the chase, nor direct others to do so”.

John Mease’s claims that the sabs present on the day were the reason he failed to release the bird were rejected out of hand, leaving the judge to draw his conclusion.

“Now, from the moment the fox – the hounds left the copse in visual pursuit of the fox, they acted in accordance with their breed instinct, as we have been told. They were unchecked and that instinct was to hunt and ultimately kill the fox.

We acknowledge that there might conceivably have been an opportunity earlier to deploy the bird as the fox broke diagonally across the field, but it was the very presence of the dogs, uncontrolled and chasing the fox up the riverbank and across the field that would in practice have prevented John Mease deploying the bird of prey. To the extent that John Mease blames the presence of saboteurs for not doing so, we reject that evidence as a complete account of his failure to slip the bird and, in conclusion, the presence of a bird of prey, close by and ready to join the hunt if the fox did go into open ground, makes no difference to the essential nature of what occurred during those particular five minutes and, in particular, the moment when dogs ran across open ground behind George Adams in pursuit of a visible fox in the open, unchecked by him. So we conclude that this was not exempt hunting, it was hunting by dogs”.

mease

The presence of a BoP does not constitute exempt huning

The final comments will have a profound effect on this particular exemption and I’ll confirm my original assertion that this will indeed be the end of mounted hunts using the falconry exemption.

“Now, the pursuit of a fox by uncontrolled dogs over open ground is behaviour which in itself constitutes the offence. The presence of the bird provides no defence at all”.

Finally we all had a bloody good laugh at the pro-hunting and killing brigade over the weekend with the complete and utter failure of their Countryside Rally in London. Organisers were claiming they were going to get 100,000 people attending and had spent over £17K on organising the event.

That’s a lot of money to spend for the 50 people who actually turned up (and that’s an optimistic number).

65895573_10156164672302797_8375393210263928832_n

Look at the crowds, oh wait . . .

It was a hot day after all and FieldsportsChannel.tv tried to put a brave face on it and claimed 150 people attended. Even if that was the case it’s still a desperately poor turnout when they were expecting 100,000.

Always nice to end on a high point.

I’ve been kinda lazy recently in the writing department but if you’re a regular reader you’d have guessed that already. I’ve been kinda busy at work and I’d also had a week away on holiday north of the border which was nice as for once the weather up there was a lot better than down south, plus I got climb a mountain which isn’t something you get to do very often.

While I was away the case of the South Herefordshire Hunt fox cub killers finally reached it’s conclusion. Here was a case that had been dragging on as long as my own one against the Fitzwilliam but for very different reasons. The Hunt Investigation Team had secured some very damning evidence against the accused and it did finally get to court although it has now come to light that the reasons behind the delays were insidious to say the least.

There was a concerted effort by some individuals within West Mercia Police to make sure those responsible for the heinous crimes against those fox cubs would never see the inside of a court room. Follow this link for a personal account by Jane Barradale-Smith who is the wife of the officer who received the bodies of the dead foxes.

64449566_914343958913163_5079497627288993792_o

The highly questionable warrant issued to search premises

The case was very widely reported in the national press and TV with the main focus not just on the convictions but the totally laughable sentences handed out with probably the best article in the Independent. It’s a sad indictment of our legal system that the people responsible avoided a custodial sentence and were in fact not even banned from keeping animals in the future. This is no deterrent at all and another reason in a long list that we need a complete overhaul of sentencing options for hunting and animal cruelty offences along with judges who are prepared to give the maximum sentences where appropriate.

The so-called Countryside Alliance had kept very tight lipped over the whole affair but once the guilty verdicts was announced they were forced into making a statement and it was predictable to say the least.

D8zkrU3X4AAqI0L

This is of course a load of unmitigated clap trap. Dim Bonner knows full well this isn’t a case of “Bad Apples”, as far as he’s concerned (and no doubt many other hunts around the country) the stupidity he’s referring to is simply that they got caught. This kind of thing is nothing new. Hunts have always historically provided foxes to be hunted and have no doubt been involved in similar activities to the SHH since hunting with hounds began. Lets not forget the Belvoir Hunt had a fox kept in an outbuilding ready to be hunted, a member to the Fitzwilliam was convicted of keeping a fox in a barrel  and last NYD the Kimblewick were filmed dragging a fox from a false earth and throwing it in front of the hounds (which we’ve heard nothing from Thames Valley Police about since).

Speaking of bad apples, below is the statement from a the This is Hunting UK  facebook page.

Statement

Pfft, “untypical” my arse. It’s all very well and good claiming they have nothing to hide but kennel open days are nothing more than promotional stunts designed to encourage more people to come hunting and they certainly won’t get to see what really goes on behind the scenes. If they really want to be open about what they do just publish the meets along with trail maps so we can all go along and watch them follow these mythical trails. Maybe we can ride with a terrier man and ask him what the terriers are for if the hunt is genuinely following a trail and do they really get that much dust up their noses while mending fences that they need to keep their faces covered. And we haven’t even mentioned “Autumn Hunting” (cubbing) yet.

Nothing whatsoever to hide?

What an absolute load of bollox.

SHH images courtesy of HIT.

Here’s a question for you, How many people do you see riding on the quad bike in the picture below?

quad

Here’s another question. Do you think the officer in the police car would have a good enough view to count the number of people on the quad?

Well apparently after a member of the public complained about the lack of action from the officers at the scene and they received this response from Thames Valley Police. Note in particular the highlighted bit in yellow.

image1

Apparently inspector James Davies is unable to see there are 4 people on the quad. Here’s an enlarged version just in case you’re in any doubt. They could have of course asked for the video to be supplied for further evidence of wrong doing if they had any doubts.

zoom

It’s also clear from point 2 of the response that the police are choosing which crimes to police and which to ignore. If there’s a hunt going on all road traffic offences appear to become null and void – good to know that, I’ll pass it on to all sab drivers and let them know they can drive where they like and how they like, and yet why is it sab vehicles always get stopped for checks every time there’s a hunt in progress. Hmmm . . .

These are the details of the quad bike:

quad check

Now the police may well get a different MOT response but I’m still fairly sure that quad isn’t designed for 4 people. Thames Valley Police are there to uphold the law for the benefit of the general public, not for the benefit of a small minority who like to hunt sentient mammals for fun and to be honest had I received that response I’d be pretty insulted.

Fell free to complain.