A fatality, a criminal conspiracy and police negligence.
Democracy seems so simple. You fight for new laws by peacefully protesting, you campaign and lobby hard, you write letter on letter, email on email, you get cold and wet, all your spare time is eaten up, you make enemies and receive threats but finally after decades your persistence along with that of others is rewarded, parliament passes a law banning a barbaric practice.
Alas that is not the end of your labours. Normally when a new law is passed there is enforcement from the state Customs, the Police, the Council etc. We see stall holders dragged into court for selling oranges in imperial and not metric, we see millions spent on investigations into peaceful protest using shiny new laws such as SOCPA, we see courts heaving with petty nonsense exacerbated by the 3000 plus new laws passed by this government. What we do not see is the Hunting Act 2004 enforced in any way , shape or form. Punching, stabbing, burning, torturing animals is treated as frivolous by the courts whom actually appears to depend on a charity, the RSPCA, to foot the bill of any prosecution involving assaults, torture and murders where non humans are the victims. The sentencing is pathetic and not only do the public have to shell out in taxes for the criminal justice system in the first place, they pay a second time in donations to charity for prosecutions against those who torment the weak, those who can least afford it donate stoically to see “justice” done.
The lesson learnt may be that Parliament and “democracy” are not the way forward to real change. “No justice, Just us” , relying on self and other grassroots activists and taking direct action has always been very important in combating atrocities and preventing/thwarting and stopping everything from supermarkets being built on woodland, to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. It really does seem to be a waste of time, effort and resources to lobby for laws which are not going to be enforced. So when some condescending politician tells the animal rights movement to go through the “proper” channels what they want is that we direct our energy into parliamentary lobbying so they can then fob us off with an law which they refuse point blank to enforce.
Enter the Hunting Act 2004. After a century of lobbying, several deaths, countless assaults and several lifetimes of hard work for many individuals, it got passed, not rushed through but using the most parliamentary time ever on any one law. Needless to say though without enforcement it is as much use as a chocolate fireguard and the hunts quickly realised that they could carry on as before and dismiss any kill or illegal hunting as an unfortunate “accident”. Quite how blocking up a badger sett when a hunt is supposed to be hunting a trail is “accidental”, (the Cotswold Vale) I fail to see “Ooops the spade must have slipped repeatedly in this badger sett!”. As for “laying trails” over main roads, through people’s gardens and practically on the tails of hares and foxes is amazingly unfortunate but that is what the police find convenient to believe. I am not saying for an instant that every single hunt is breaking the law, nor that all hunt supporters are involved. Many are blissfully unaware of what is going on in front of them as indeed they were when hunting wild mammals with hounds was legal, but there are indeed many who really do not care about ignoring the Hunting Act and who blatantly lie about it to anyone gullible enough to fall for it which of course includes most police officers who would not apply this attitude in any other case ;
“Oi! You with the swag bag, the balaclava and machete smashing your way into that house, you’re nicked!”, “Officer I was merely doing some gardening, I am hideously ugly and do not wish to frighten any children, my machete just brushed against the glass and the window broke, I live here”,
“Oh sorry sir we had a 999 call from some time waster playing a prank, carry on you seem perfectly law abiding to me so I won‘t bother checking that you do indeed live here and that an old lady is not cowering under the bed”.
Hunt monitors who simply observe and film hunts, keep to footpaths and observe the law, and saboteurs who use direct action to try and stop the hounds from killing live mammals are still busy and still the only people who care about those who are hunted. Those paid to investigate crimes against wildlife are sadly impotent. The hunts have got more violent and the police are even arresting those who they think might interfere with the criminal offence of hunting wild animals with hounds for sport. The police in some cases are doing their best to facilitate illegal hunting such is their sycophancy towards the hunt. Strangely enough hunts can ride roughshod over the land of those who do not want them there, kill wildlife and pets, laugh at the protests of the land/garden owner and it is not “in the public interest” to actually bother responding to any complaint. When a hunt whines about being filmed, or heaven forbid the hounds stopped from killing a fox unlawfully, it is deemed a priority for CID to get involved and the CPS to hound the perpetrators of the offence of compassion.
The police cannot be bothered, nor can the CPS. The Hunting Act 2004 has only ever been enforced when monitors have at grave risk to themselves gained footage of hounds and quarry in the same frame, a small fine and a criminal record may then be the fate of the huntsman responsible. Until it is tightened it is a pathetic sop to the public who believe that hunting has been banned.
So to the Warwickshire hunt and the death of Trevor Morse on that fateful day 9th March 2009. Monitoring the hunt was vital if the obscene practice of hunting a fox to death was to be either deterred by the presence of monitors or the evidence caught on film, or by witness statements for a potential prosecution.
Trevor Morse died, Bryan Griffiths was charged with murder (eventually this was changed to manslaughter by gross negligence).
This is what happened at trial from contemporaneous notes
Protect Our Wild Animals are a group of very respectable hunt monitors who gather evidence of illegal hunting to pass on to the police. They are often assaulted and bullied by the hunts they monitor so much so that they will not go out unless they can ensure a police presence. Their film “Hunting Anarchy” clearly shows intimidation, assaults and unlawful hunting.
Bryan Griffiths was a pilot with a helicopter and gyrocopter licence. In the sky good evidence could be obtained, there was a deterrent value and the hunt could not harm the monitors. In 2007 a helicopter went up and Sam Butler one of the Warwickshire hunt masters made sure that as many hunt supporters as possible put in a complaint to the Civil Aviation Authority about livestock aborting, terrified children and horses driven to madness etc. The complaints were untrue but following complaints to the Civil Aviation Authority Bryan agreed not to go beneath 1000 feet, twice the usual limit of 500 feet.
Bryan bought his own gyrocopter and began to use it to great effect at the beginning of 2009. Trevor Morse did some research and found out Bryan’s name and address in February 2009 and told his friends in the hunt. A plan was hatched to stop the gyrocopter taking off and question those in it when it refuelled, a plan which defence barrister James Wood described as a criminal conspiracy involving as it did the breach of several aviation laws, unlawful imprisonment, assault, etc.
Trevor Morse was driving the hunt landrover when that plan was enacted. With him was Julie Sargeant another hunt supporter. He had spoken to Otis Ferry, notorious master of the South Shropshire only an hour before his death. He worked out that the gyrocopter was en route to refuelling at Long Marston airfield and drove there in what Julie described as “a white knuckle ride” calling master Anthony Spencer (who was at a funeral) and others on his way.
Meanwhile Bryan Griffiths and his passenger John Curtin landed and were approached by aviation enthusiasts Mr Tipping and Mr Emerson who were just curious about the gyrocopter. (These 2 independent witnesses were actually told that their presence was not required in court by the prosecution. Only at 15.30, the very day before they were to eventually testify, were they called in). Once it was certain that these 2 men were not hunt supporters Bryan told them of his concerns and that the aircraft had been shot at 3 times. It was accepted by the prosecution that Bryan genuinely believed that he had been shot at, both from a landrover on the road and from the courtyard of a house.
None of your business
Trevor Morse arrived and parked up, he started to film [photograph] the car of Mr Emerson and a brief discussion occurred between them. When asked why he was photographing them and the car Morse said “None of your business”..
All 4 men were frightened by Mr Morse, Bryan asked the 2 men to stay as witnesses, they thought they had come across drug dealers! Bryan asked Peter Bunce to hurry up via his moblie so they could get away. Peter Bunce turned up with the fuel, only 10-15 litres out of the 40 was used such was the haste to depart. Morse then drove his landrover up so close that Bryan had to pull the gyrocopter to a different position. Morse fag in mouth (with petrol present), camera in hand stood close to the left at the front and gestured to Julie to get out of the landrover and help stop the gyrocopter taking off She did so very reluctantly and no-one present noticed her by the aircraft. Throughout her evidence she made it clear that she did not want to get involved with any confrontation.
Bryan politely asked him to move out of the way and Morse replied “You’re going nowhere”. Bryan warned him of the danger of the blades saying loudly “starting engine” “clear prop “. Morse said nothing. Peter started filming and asked Morse very politely to desist, Bryan, now in the pilot’s seat, gestured with his hands to Morse to move and then gently started to nudge the aircraft forward, Julie stepped back.
On the video Trevor Morse is seen moving away from the aircraft and then walks back in towards the passenger to either hit him or grab him, thus his life is ended, as he leans forward the back propeller slices through the top of his head to his mouth, lacerating his torso and right arm, all of which is blacked out to spare the jury a frightful image. He is killed instantly.
The gyrocopter stopped, Bryan got out and walked to the very distraught Julie but can think of nothing to say. He called the emergency services. Anthony Spencer turned up, saw Trevor Morse’s body and shouted at Bryan, comforted Julie and also called the emergency services. Bryan on the phone to the emergency services asked desperately for the police to attend time and time again, the operator is asked if a defibrillator might help and asked how Bryan knew that the “patient” was dead.
Otis Ferry arrives with his girlfriend but was told by Spencer that he was not needed. He disappeared rather quickly.
The police and ambulance arrived, Bryan and John are arrested on suspicion of murder. When it became clear that John had no control over the gyrocopter he was released without charge, Bryan was charged with murder after 3 days and remanded in custody for over 6 weeks. Bryan was tagged and not allowed to be out after 19.00 until the very day of the trial. Some time later the charge was reduced to manslaughter through gross negligence.
Antony Spencer argued that Trevor Morse had only gone to the airfield to find out who the pilot was and if he had permission to land . This was contradicted by the fact that found in the landrover which Trevor was driving was a 3 page document downloaded from the internet which had Bryan’s name and address on it and handwritten “…not take off vertically and does not hover”, no attempt was made by the police to analyse who wrote this. Furthermore Trevor Morse did not ask Bryan if he had permission to land, he had plenty of opportunity to do so and as James Wood QC pointed out both men could have gone to Long Marston site office to verify that he did indeed have permission to land from the owner of the airfield. It was clear that Trevor “a man of few words” was going to hold Bryan a virtual prisoner until more hunt supporters turned up to “question” both Bryan and John. Charmain Green MFH said in her evidence that everyone knew that Trevor Morse had found out who the pilot was and where he lived which directly contradicted Anthony Spencer’s fallacies, she also helpfully stated that one of Trevor Morse’s roles, albeit a minor one according to her evidence, was to deal with hunt monitors.
On 17th March 2010 Bryan Griffiths was acquitted by a jury after 7 hours of deliberation.
Since in the media several different themes have emerged.
1. John Curtin’s past. In the 80’s John was sent to prison for attempting to dig up with others the 10th Duke of Beaufort and allegedly cut off his head and send it to Princess Anne. Reportedly the spade broke and no more than a bit of earth was moved from the grave. John has openly reflected on this and publicly regretted this incident, he condemned the digging up of Gladys Hammond an incident given very wide press coverage and which is surrounded by unanswered questions. Let us get this into perspective whilst grave robbing is abhorrent to most people, including myself, no living being is physically harmed, no one has been maimed or killed. He is not a violent man and I have often heard him urging compassion towards animal abusers as opposed to hatred, which has led to accusations of him affectionately being called an old hippy from some of the younger members of the animal rights community.
The hysteria surrounding the fact that he was the passenger is laughable. In the Sunday Telegraph there is some nonsense about John wearing a balaclava at hunts the implication being that he was trying to terrorise. Yes it transpired in court that John wore a balaclava so that his helmet would fit properly, a spiderman one I think it was. How the hunt could even be aware of this, let alone be terrorised by it as he was 1000 feet up is remarkable. Hunting Anarchy the POWA film shows hunt followers wearing balaclavas, so what?
Sam Butler yet another Warwickshire MFH (6 in total) is practically frothing at the mouth in mock terror in Horse and Hound 25th March 2010 so “terrified” he is of John that he wants meetings with the police to “see how we can be kept safe…I am very concerned about the safety of our members”. If so then Sam what about hunting within the remit of the Hunting Act so that no-one has to waste time on monitoring your unlawful activities? How about briefing your followers firmly on peaceful conduct towards hunt monitors and others who are opposed to hunting ? How about not being involved in plans to stand in front of aircraft and walking into things to attack people with propellers going at 200mph in the immediate vicinity? Oh yes your fellow master Anthony Spencer named you as a co conspirator in the plan to ground the gyrocopter so you are partly culpable for Trevor’s death if indeed he was telling the truth. We all know that hunts are rather autocratic institutions where a Master’s word is law, unlikely that Trevor Morse was acting completely on his own initiative now is it not?
The Countryman’s Weekly comes up with an interesting theory that “before Mr Griffiths tried to take off Mr Morse might have recognised Mr Curtin and tried to grab him”. Oh right, so because John committed a crime 3 decades ago which he has since regretted it is OK for Trevor Morse to attack him, or grab him? One website says that John told Bryan to kill Trevor. Well nonsense but let us put that one to bed right now. The police obviously did a great deal of investigation into the gyrocopter the comms unit was not connected. In his haste to escape from the beating which was clearly being orchestrated Bryan had not connected the communications which is a matter of fact. Unless John had shouted which would have been picked up by the video camera he had no way of communicating with Bryan. He could not and did not tell him to do anything.
2. Otis Ferry was interviewed by the Sunday Telegraph. Remarkably a trained journalist wrote, “by coincidence, Otis Ferry, 27, the son of rock star Bryan, and the Joint Master of the South Shropshire came across the scene whilst returning from his court hearing”. Yes indeed an amazing coincidence, there is Otis travelling up from Gloucester Crown Court and although he lives in Shropshire he just happened to stop where the Warwickshire were hunting speaking both to Trevor Morse (as Julie Sargeant gushingly told the court) and Charmain Green. Then he just happened to drive off the road into a private airfield right up to exactly where the gyrocopter was just minutes after the tragic accident. It is almost as believable as the “accidental” digout we witnessed Otis order in 2006. The Shropshire hounds accidentally marked a fox to ground, then purely by accident a terrier man accidentally put some spades and nets on the exits of the earth. Otis accidentally attacked me and my friend, a terrier accidentally went down one hole, etc until the terrier man put his foot down and told everyone, police, us and hunt to politely go away as he had had enough and wanted to take his terrier home which he did. What Otis said about monitors could also apply to him and his ilk, “They are so besotted by their crazy beliefs that normal judgement goes out of the window”. Even Mr Spencer in his urgency to tell James Wood the names of all of his co-conspirators was careful enough to omit one name I.e Otis Ferry, but how else would Otis have arrived at Long Marston airfield at that exact time unless someone had asked him to be there to help with the “questioning” of Bryan and John?
3. Throughout the entire trial the Countryside Alliance exhibited their arrogance by sitting on the press benches in the forms of Clare Rowson and occasionally Tim Bonner, according to a real journalist they had absolutely no right to be there as not only should those on the press benches have press cards but they should not be on either side, impartiality is paramount to those privileged to sit there, a complaint is in progress. So Clare was there when Charmain Green told the court that nearly the entire hunt knew who the pilot was, she was also there when her facebook friend Anthony Spencer said that he and Trevor had gone to the airfield to find out who the pilot was. She must have heard about the 3 page document downloaded by Trevor Morse concerning Bryan’s details a dozen times. This did not dissuade Clare from lying to the press on Birmingham Crown Court’s steps to the very reporters she had sat next to when she said that the hunt had only gone to detain the gyrocopter because they wanted to find out who the pilot was.
Accepted fact by the prosecution and the police ;THE HUNT ALREADY KNEW WHO THE PILOT WAS. If Anthony Spencer did not know then he is either a Billy no mates deliberately kept in the dark, he is very forgetful or he has told fibs on oath, or to put it another way he has committed the offence of perjury.
4. It was stated very clearly in court that the gyrocopter did not go beneath 1000 feet a fact proven by the GPS system and accepted by both sides. In addition on 7th March 2009 PC Nick Hosegood was instructed to observe the gyrocopter and record the height. He did so and found no wrongdoing at all. The nonsense about the gyrocopter (or squadron of them as stated by the Sunday Telegraph) “buzzing” horses and riders should just be disregarded. Julie Sargeant described the gyrocopter as a dot in the sky. The noise was described as less than traffic noise and as James wood QC pointed out the RAF constantly fly high speed jets which nearly blow the ear drums but have little effect on livestock. It must be a very isolated area indeed if anywhere in which horses, sheep and cows have never heard a helicopter or jet engine. To claim as the hunt did in court that sheep, horses at stud, hunt horses and cows were running around terrified by a microlight aircraft 1000 feet above them is simply an insult to anyone with average intelligence.
All in all may Trevor Morse rest in peace after this tragedy and may Bryan Griffiths’s recover from the events of the 9th March 2010. May it also be that the police do their job and investigate the criminal conspiracy which led Trevor Morse to his death and indeed police the Hunting Act so that monitors do not have to attend hunts and face a violent response. When the tired excuse comes out that they have “better things to do” we should bear in mind that they have plenty of resources to hurl at Climate Camp, indeed in August 2008 they had a police officer for each protestor (including those in wheelchairs, babes in arms etc), they have unlimited resources if they think hunt saboteur’s might upset a hunt or if protestors peacefully protest outside a laboratory.
Furthermore let us never forget that Mike Hill aged 18 and Tom Worby aged 15 died in very suspicious circumstances under the wheels of vehicles driven by hunters neither of whom was charged with murder, manslaughter or indeed any offence whatsoever let alone tried for an offence in court. The case of Steve Christmas a sab who was crushed by a landrover in 2000 is perhaps even worse despite the fact that, miraculously, he survived. Steve was not just driven over but the driver reversed over him repeatedly and on purpose, the police and CPS could not be bothered to get this case to court. What they did do though was prosecute ruthlessly the activists who attended a demonstration at the Old Surrey and Burstow hunt kennels to demand justice as Steve lay close to death in ITU. A window was broken, this was considered to be more worthy of the full force of the law than an attempted murder as the front doors of animal rights activists were smashed down all over the South. This sentiment was reflected by the front page of the Daily Telegraph which mentioned the fact that a human being was nearly killed as a mere footnote after lamenting the broken window. Either the police and CPS regard hunters as more far important than those who oppose hunting or they are grossly negligent themselves.
As the Countryside Alliance so rightly said in their evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “Demonstrating respect for rights? A human rights approach to policing protest” 2008 the police should not be attacking or suppressing non violent protestors, interestingly the Countryside Alliance omit any mention of having their human rights impinged on by animal rights activists let alone hunt monitors, not in all of the 6 pages. Everyone else from Eon, to HLS, to the Research Defence Society and the British Fur Trade association gave in their evidence stories of how they had been terrorised by protestors. Why the omission? Maybe hunt supporters have had a taste of what the state does to dissenters and this has radicalised them a little and maybe as well those who attend hunts to either gather evidence or to stop illegal hunting by sabotage are not the bogeymen the CA would have the public believe. “Antis” were certainly not a concern of the CA when they gave evidence on how and if protests should be policed which implies that both monitors and sabs have been very well behaved, unlike some members of the hunting fraternity.