We are told from a young age that we live in a democracy, that if we lobby our MP, write letters and protest in a nice state approved way that we will get the law changed, that improvements will be made. So after over a century of campaigning against hunting and ripping apart wild mammals for no other reason than “sport” where are we? What have we accomplished? How is this hard fought law being implemented? Most importantly is this assumption that getting the law changed is all important no more than a fairy story, a sop to the British public? Believe you me in the real world NOTHING has changed.
Despite the Hunting Act 2005 making it unlawful the hunting of wild mammals with hounds and terriers remains commonplace in the UK. The “sport” involves hunting deer, fox, mink and hare by scent until the scent is lost, the victim is torn apart by the hounds, brought to bay and shot (in the case of stags, hinds and calves), is hunted to ground or escapes. In the case of fox and mink escaping to ground can mean one or two terriers are put in to evict the hunted creature or kill them underground a slow, terrifying protracted death. Hunted animals may escape only to die from exhaustion later maybe far away from their own territory with no food, no shelter .
I am ex-hunt and after great deliberation stopped being a hunt supporter in 1990 and eventually became thoroughly anti hunt and vegan in 1994 telling all of my old hunting friends by letter that I could no longer be part of such gross cruelty as well as my intention to use my knowledge to end hunting. This was not an easy decision to make I did not want to betray those who had been good friends to me but betraying the hunted by doing nothing was far worse. One horrific example of cruelty happened at the West Kent hunt who met at the Greyhound at Charcott on 14th March 1988 . I was at a dig out and a hugely pregnant vixen was extracted from an earth and shot in the head, as is sometimes the case the bullet did not kill her but she was obviously badly injured. They could have shot her again as indeed others would have done but instead they threw her to terriers standing by to maul her and attack her. She tried to fight back but eventually collapsed, it looked as though she was dead. We went back to the land rover I was in the back and to my horror heard her sob. I told the terrier men thinking that they would see fit to end her suffering but they simply laughed saying that I could just hear the cubs moving and she would be dead soon enough anyway. I ran it by senior hunt officials who were sickened but without evidence would do nothing. This is exactly what the police are keen to support, encourage, endorse and protect from any interference or exposure despite the fact that Parliament has outlawed it.
On another occasion I was out with the Devon and Somerset stag hounds when the hunted stag came past frothing at the mouth, tongue hanging out, eyes rolling, his terror palpable this was in the early 90s, I felt physically sick at the very brink of the end of my life as a hunt supporter whilst others jeered and laughed. One day my friend Jesse as we were mucking out the horses (she rode with the D and S a lot) told me about a little hind who was shot in a book and was flailing around suffering unimaginably running wounded down the stream. Jesse shook her head and was obviously upset and keen to get across her opinion that deer hunting was barbaric, it was not sport . Jesse met a horrific end unrelated to hunting and can no longer testify as to what happens. I still can as can others who once hunted and those who are at present quiet about what they have seen and done.
Hunting to me became an abomination and slowly it became clear that there was no such thing as a one off. I joined the campaign against hunting spurred on by the fact that the Criminal Justice Act was looming which effectively made interfering with hunting illegal. I joined the Hunt Saboteurs Association in a press conference in the House of Commons 1994 condemning the then Criminal Justice Bill and became a hunt saboteur and monitor. It is rather ironic that the final push for me to oppose hunting came with the CJA being implemented and that I should actually be prosecuted under it myself at a time when one of my old hunting friends Nick Herbert MP is Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice and the leader of the repeal the Hunting Act brigade within the Commons . In fact the last conversation I had with him was in the early 90s when I asked him to stop setting thuggish stewards on sabs and monitors which was one of his initiatives. I got nowhere.
_____________The so-called offence__________
I went out either as a sab’ or monitor occasionally in the interceding years until 21stMarch 2009 when I joined with others at the Vale of Aylesbury, Garth and South Berks hunt (now renamed the Kimblewick) who met at Brockhurst School Marlston Rd, Marlston, Hermitage, Buckinghamshire. Why exactly a school is collaborating with a criminal activity I know not but maybe the hunt lied, maybe Mr Fleming one of the masters and a head teacher works there. The hounds went to an area known as the ratpit opposite the school and started speaking (a sort of howling noise which lets other hounds and humans know that they have smelt a fox).
We had walked beside the footpath which was blocked by the field ( the mounted followers) and one sab’ blew a hunting horn to call the hounds away from the hunted animal, others holloaed (a noise which calls hounds to you). I was standing there debating with one of the Masters, Mr Fleming, about whether or not he was the landowner and was filming this interaction when the sab’ with the hunting horn was nearly crushed by another Master Mr Austin who tried to run him down, the sab’ swore at him as he moved away just in time. The hounds went on in full cry through a barbed wire fence and sabs followed on quickly except 2 of us who are much slower. As I reached the fence Sergeant Paul Riley called for me to stop by name and knowing him to be a highly biased member of the Operation Rumble team and having been seriously injured by a police officer before, I made a run for it. I was caught and told to leave the land under section 69 of the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Knowing that the hunt were hunting unlawfully I asked him what legal activity I was supposed to be interfering with whilst sitting down in order to make it as difficult as possible for him, I also complained about the illegal hunting and asked him to do something about it. I was then arrested. The other sabs went on unhindered and a monitor caught the hounds on film hunting a deer through woodland with Mr Austin doing absolutely nothing to stop them. Despite repeated complaints the police refused to take any action against the hunt committing a crime right in front of them.
It is common knowledge that the police response to any offence committed by a hunt supporter is anaemic at best and that the response to any slight upset to any hunt supporter is met with the utmost sycophancy towards the hunt. As a result the police are regarded with the utmost contempt, they are nothing more than glorified hunt thugs. Forget about them just being too incompetent to police hunting, they are actively facilitating this criminal activity and doing so with the utmost enthusiasm. Those who try to gather evidence of illegal hunting against all odds are showing the police up, the police, it would appear institutionally, are actively pro hunt and therefore pro crime. There are some individuals who try to be fair but their attempts are thwarted by senior officers and the CPS. Complaints by anti hunt activists concerning hunts have even been used as evidence of “animal rights extremism” in some cases. I reported a badger sett being wrecked by a local hunt, the police did not even go and see it, they did ,however, make sure that an entry went on my NCDE (National Coordinator of Domestic Extremism) file held at Scotland Yard as evidence of “extremism”. Yep, if you complain about a criminal activity carried out by a hunt the police regard that as evidence of YOU being an extremist in some cases.
Eventually at a later date the CPS decided that it was in the public interest to charge me with this offence. The same CPS who are too lazy, stupid and corrupt to prosecute hunt supporters who break the law by illegal hunting, trespass, killing cats, attacking people, criminal damage, robbery etc. At every stage, at arrest, at booking in at Newbury police station, the next day in a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission and on charging at Oxford I complained repeatedly about the fact that the hunt were hunting illegally. This was not enough I was told by the magistrate in court, 5 separate complaints about the hunt by me to the police was not enough for them to get the message or act!!! Therefore I would suggest a 999 call by every single person who witnesses every single illegal act committed by any hunt followed up by at least 6 more complaints to make sure that they really do understand and a formal complaint to Professional Standards about every officer who is negligent in not fully investigating the offence of hunting wild mammals with dogs. Either that or be lectured to on how you should have really made the effort rather than only reporting the crime once.
Letters between Alistair Jackson Chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association and Thames Valley Police that year were of the police asking why “the trail” had to be laid on and near public roads without any hint of criticism of blatant breaches of the Hunting Act with the MFHA whining about the police “allowing” unsympathetic persons to witness hunting, not difficult to witness when hounds are running down main roads in full cry after a fox.
The disclosure of evidence to my lawyers and to me became a farce leading up to the trial. A hunt monitor had recorded the hounds clearly drawing through thick undergrowth where clearly no trail had been laid and then a deer can be seen being hunted by the entire pack whilst one of the masters just follows encouraging them. She gave it to the police in good faith as evidence of unlawful hunting. The police never wanted it to see the light of day. The police vociferously warned that if I saw any hunt members face on the film that I would target them and for their safety I could not be shown the film. No reason was given for this wild allegation and for the record I have absolutely no interest in harming anyone involved in hunting unless in self defence/defending others, I am certainly not interested in harassing school kids who were out on their ponies without a clue what was going on as was implied. My lawyer would be allowed to see the film under supervision , my lawyer refused, quite rightly. We were then told it was very boring and showed nothing that would be of any interest to my case. We saw it at a pre-trial review when the CPS lawyer covering the case filling in for the usual lawyer saw no problem with us viewing it. We watched it with great interest and found to our astonishment that there were no recognisable faces on it at all. The police and CPS had lied to try and stop us viewing it because it was damning evidence undermining their assertion that the hunt was 100% legal.
So this went to trial in Magistrates court in October 2009.
This started with the rather bumbling prosecutor Mr Baldwin saying that I was there to intimidate, disrupt and obstruct the hunt followers. For the record I was not there to intimidate anyone and it would have been a pretty mean feat considering how we were outnumbered 5 to 1, I did nothing to disrupt or obstruct the hunt. As every good sab’ knows less can often be more, first do no harm. I had done nothing but walk across a field , sit down and demand that the police investigate the criminal offence taking place right in front of them. In any event obstructing/disrupting a criminal offence is in normal circumstances considered to be a good thing, there was nothing legal about this hunt! Mr Baldwin knew this and admitted it privately at the end of the trial which concluded in December 2009.
Mr Fleming MFH (now ex MFH) was first to tell his story of woe. This meet was a joint meet with the Taunton Vale Harriers and their huntsman and hounds were hunting that day. This “victim” of mine told of the horror of people in black clothing trying to save the hunted animals life by walking on his land. I had been polite to him during our conversation and there was little more to say. It had been agreed that I was on his land but so what? He told the court that terriermen Mr Vincent and Mr Nash were laying the trail that day and that Mr Austin was whipping in.
Onto Mr Christopher Austin MFH who unlike Mr Fleming was very twitchy indeed with a bright red face. He told the court that he was on a horse that did not tolerate a whip being cracked which is rather odd considering that if he was acting as a whipper in one of his roles was to stop hounds going across a main road or hunting something other than the “trail” they claimed to have laid, in fact the whip is a safety device to stop hounds from hurting themselves and/or others, sabs carry whips to stop hounds hunting live animals or endangering themselves. If he was unable to use it because his horse spooks then he would have been useless. He told the court that they always video the trail being laid but on this day very strangely the video was “not working”. .He made much of the fact that he was sworn at when he tried to seriously injure a sab’. Now in direct contradiction of Mr Fleming’s evidence he said that he was field master that day. Personally I believe Mr Fleming who was seen at the head of the field and seemed much more honest in his demeanour. Mr Austin is also seen later alone on video and admitted that it was him following hounds hunting a deer making no attempt to stop them. A field master’s role is to lead the mounted followers so where had they all gone if he was in charge of the riders? He told the court an interesting story about how sabs ran away from the police when in fact they were running to stop the hounds from killing. The huntsman in charge of the hounds that day was Alan Thomas MH (Master of Hounds, Harriers tend to hunt hares but can and do hunt foxes). Austin told us how his intention was “trying to replicate normal hunting” using a fox based scent from the USA “where it is in common use”, it would appear that this is fox urine maybe from fur farms but what is interesting is how Austin admitted rather reluctantly that he was doing his utmost to ensure that they were hunting in areas where they could pick up a fox and hunt on “accidentally” even to the extent of using a scent that would ensure that the hounds would hunt a fox. Since the trial Austin’s mysterious fox based scent has been laid over land the VAGSB had no permission to be on resulting in an angry confrontation with a farmer who had his land trashed and playing fields. Why lay a trail over land you are banned from and football pitches, is this not rather suspicious? Sadly none of this could be questioned at the appeal. Austin also said that the trail layers would have got off their quad bikes to lay the trail in undergrowth which is why we could see the hounds speaking in thick brambles. Austin claimed that he knew nothing of the deer being hunted despite the fact it happened right in front of him and Sergeant Riley claims to have informed him of this matter.
Mr Nigel Howard was a member of the field and had hunted for 12 years so my experience is thus greater at 29 years of being in the field on both sides of the fence. He told some interesting little tale about how the field we had been forced to stand on ,as the horses were all on the footpath, was seeded intimating that we were ruining the crops. My Fleming, the landowner had already told the court that the field was not seeded and therefore we had done no harm to the land. I don’t know whether Nigel had been at the sauce or is just delusional or a bare faced liar but he then told a tale of me rolling around on the earth “kicking and screaming” and being “very aggressive” to the police from several fields away. Of course if I had then I would have been charged with much more, assaulting a police officer for one. His evidence was not backed up by any other witness. I conclude that he is a nasty vindictive fat liar therefore, or that he needs help. He said that he did not see a trail laid.
Mark Vincent was one of the “trail layers” so he said. His role was to lay a trail on his quad bike. Several lines he had laid were videoed by Stephen Nash who followed in his land rover contradicting Austin who told the court that the hunt camera was broken. He did not get off the quad bike at ANY point further contradicting Austin’s evidence that when the hounds were drawing covert and picking up a scent that it was no trail that they can be seen hunting. He spoke to Sergeant Riley before the meet and said that Stephen Nash stayed with him. He handed the camera to Andrea O Reagan.
Stephen Nash, this started to get interesting. He is a fence mender, he verified that the field was not seeded. He told the court that he did not film the trails laid he used the camera only at the meet, where a trail was supposed to be laid south of the school and to film sabs. He filmed NOTHING else contradicting both Austin’s and Vincent’s evidence, he gave the camera to Vincent, he was with him for only a short time.
It may surprise people to know that this tape was not made available, it had mysteriously disappeared.
PC James Willmett 3588 who is seconded to anti animal rights unit Operation Rumble. He said that we were trying to stop the horses in direct contradiction to the hunt who were angry that we were on the field. The horses were on the footpath blocking it. In Jame’s little world hunts are sabotaged by running amongst the riders and so he came out with what he thought everyone wanted to hear. Riders do not kill foxes, therefore no-one is interested in them, the focus is on hounds, huntsman, terrier men who are the ones who will hunt and kill. The field (the mounted followers) and the foot followers are just there to watch and keep up with them. I have no idea with why he said that we “were trying to stop the horses” when we were staying away from the horse for their safety, the safety of the riders and our safety and as a result were accused of trespassing but of course his role is to ingratiate himself with those who support hunting so I suppose it was the best he could come up with. He said that Sergeant Riley asked me to leave 3 times. He said after my arrest I complained about the hunt being unlawful. He refused to act on my complaint as he was not interested in enforcing that particular law. He could not be bothered to reattend the hunt and investigate the crimes they were committing.
Sergeant Paul Riley of Operation Rumble did not even know what “speaking” was in reference to the sound hounds make when they are hunting. His extent of preparing himself and his underlings for policing the hunt was to read some briefing, but of course they were not there to enforce the Hunting Act , they were there to arrest one side only. Regrettably section 69 revolves around what the arresting officer “reasonably believes is a legal activity. In Riley’s case his sycophancy towards the hunt means that they could be ripping apart a cat in someone’s garden in front of toddlers and he would still believe it was a legal activity. Hunt supporters never lie you see. A police officer who does not to have even the most basic knowledge concerning hunting but lots of knowledge and enthusiasm when it comes to what sab’s and monitors can be arrested for is not someone who is impartial, s/he is present only to enforce the law on one side and let the other break the law with no consequences. This is sergeant Riley through and through, a corrupt pro animal abuse officer who will do anything for Oxford University and now the hunts and I mean anything.
He had not bothered to brief himself or his underlings on what was legal hunting and what was not but why should he bother? He was not there to be impartial, or to ensure that neither side overstepped the mark, he certainly was not there to enforce the Hunting Act which might after all upset the people wearing nice shiny buttons, he was there to arrest sabs and stop the collection of any evidence of illegal hunting. His extent of doing something in the face of a complaint with evidence of the deer being hunted was to tell Austin that he had been caught out. I would love this a police officer telling me that I have been caught doing something very naughty on film but doing absolutely nothing about it. Austin must have a memory problem though because he “forgot” this when he gave his evidence.
The police claimed that they had not seen a fox which is hardly surprising but they were of the belief that they had to see a fox themselves to know that the hunt was illegal. As anyone who knows anything about foxes and hunting knows a fox who is hunted does his best to disappear from view. This is obvious common sense but the police were negligent in that they could not be bothered to brief themselves on the most basic principles of hunting. Does this mean that if a hunt are taking great pains to hunt legally and a fox is seen that they are hunting illegally? Does sighting a fox in London mean that a hunt are nearby? Regrettably the District Judge was also ignorant of these matters and decided that actually seeing the fox is important whereas every hunter, every sab, every monitor, everyone who has attended just a couple of meets knows that when you hear the hounds speak then that is when you know that something or someone is being hunted. The first sense of knowing what is happening with a hunt is always sound especially as it is impossible to see through thick woodland. Seeing is secondary. This was wasted on these fools who did not even have the basic decency to look at the facts before dragging me through court.
When I gave my evidence I was accused of ambushing the trial because the CPS assumed that I knew nothing of hunting.. When I was able to talk of scenting conditions, how hounds and huntsman communicate, how foxes behave when hunted over then 28 years of experience it was as though I had obtained my knowledge out of sheer spite, as though it was my fault that the police had not briefed him properly on my background. I was asked point blank about the names of the others present which I declined to answer. I was also told that I should have phoned the hunt to ask them if they planned to break the law, apparently we are all supposed to be as gullible, sychophantic and stupid as Thames Valley Police have been when it comes to believing the outrageous lies told by hunts.
One of my witnesses was extremely knowledgeable about hunting. She was the monitor who shot the footage of the hunted deer. The court did not like this at all and it was deemed by the judge that my witness and I were in effect so knowledgeable that we could be considered as expert witnesses. Personally I think that we are both fairly knowledgeable but certainly not in the same league as others who could be called as experts. We could not in law be considered “expert witnesses” as we were both involved in the case but regardless the hunt was given an opportunity to respond with an expert witness of their own and the case was adjourned to December to facilitate this. Bearing in mind that 2 hunt masters had been interviewed and one terrier man all 3 could be considered to have equal or indeed superior knowledge to us.
On 16 December 2009 Austin was the best they could come up with. He squirmed and looked exceedingly uncomfortable when shown the deer footage again making the very inadequate assertion that the hounds just happened to be going in the same direction as the deer. He also said that the special fox scent from the USA was not synthetic which has led me to ponder its origin, the only place I can think of is fur farms where foxes are bred to suffer before being skinned sometimes conscious for idiots who wear fur. It is an educated guess.
I was found guilty of section 69 Criminal Justice Act 1994 it would seem because the police argued that there was no illegal hunting because they had not seen a fox themselves, because the hunt said they were following a trail despite evidence to the contrary and because I did not point out that they were hunting illegally enough times. I was given a 2 year conditional discharge and £400 costs.
Of course a decision was made to appeal which was set on 21st September 2010. In between it transpired that the police were shall we say unaware that hunt monitors had in fact made complaints about illegal hunting and other unpleasantness that they had somehow “forgotten” to investigate. Witnesses came forward to testify on my behalf against the hunt now renamed Kimblewick after an attempt to sort out in fighting within the hunt. The CPS were supposed to serve their skeleton argument 2 weeks prior to this date. As it happened the thrust of their argument centred around the Crown vs. Jones judgement which stated that despite the fact that the CJA determines that the disruption of an illegal activity is NOT an offence that the argument about legality can not be used to defend oneself against prosecution. I was given half an hour to decide under pain of immense costs whether to proceed with no defence as we could not use the film or call witnesses. I had no real choice but to abandon the appeal and cut my losses. There were no further costs.
It also transpired that Sergeant Riley having nothing better to do had made a dvd about the heinous crime I had committed for the court walking the exact route and explaining in painstaking detail where the fence was etc. No expense spared, no stone left unturned in stopping the menace of people like me interfering with ripping wild beings to shreds for fun.
My camera was finally given back to me, it is of course broken and unusable.
Skimreading through some of the statements I was appalled to see that PC Calderwood 3596 also Operation Rumble had spent the rest of the day filming sabs. He did not film the hunt, I wonder why not. He also gave Vincent a verbal caution for standing up on his quad bike but accepted his excuse for having no registration plate as being that the quad bike was for agricultural use. Since when has “trail” hunting been agricultural? Anyone who knows about the law of the road also knows unless someone is driving from one field entrance to the next this exemption does not apply but of course Operation Rumble were there only to stop those opposed to hunting not to impartially police both sides so they did not bother to brief themselves or ask for advice concerning what is a common hunt offence I.e no number plates on vehicles.
For more information about Operation Rumble corruption and partiality see these links and note how they are praised by political police unit NETCU;
http://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/aboutus/aboutus-sop/aboutus-sop-oprumble.htm contains information about Rumble being exclusively a unit to tackle “animal rights extremism”, not anything else such as illegal hunting for example.
NETCU’s evidence to the Parliamentary committee on policing and protests outlining Rumble as a blueprint for exclusively dealing with “animal rights extremism”.
http://www.speakcampaigns.org/news/20060115rumbled.php An article explaining how corrupt Rumble are.